WASHINGTON — An American flag, the symbol of freedom, served as the backdrop in a vast aircraft hangar. The bleachers were filled to the brim with Airmen, families and well-wishers from all around the Air Force who came to bid farewell to the 17th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody and welcome the 18th CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright during a transition and retirement ceremony Feb. 17, 2017 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
The position of CMSAF has been in effect for 50 years now; a position that shapes how Airmen grow…a position of honor.
“Chief Cody not only upheld the standards demanded of the position, he did it with grace, adopting the entire Total Force as members of his family,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein. “He epitomized the ‘servant leader,’ choosing to lead his Airmen personally, face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder.”
Goldfein listed a number of accomplishments by Cody during his tenure as the highest enlisted Airman saying he is passionate about ensuring Airmen are prepared for the fight and that he excelled in his duties in the care of Airmen.
“What we are going to miss about our Air Force is you. We’re going to miss the Airmen, we’re going to miss their families,” said Cody, addressing the crowd. “We have served our entire adult lives together, we have grown up with you, (and) we have been through all of it with you.”
Cody said the legacy of the 17th CMSAF isn’t about him, it’s about all the men and women all around the world, along with their families, doing what they do every day for the nation.
During a formal reading of orders, Cody, after 32 years of service to our country, was officially retired, effective April 1, 2017.
The attention shifted to Wright as he stood on the stage.
His service jacket, with chief stripes and a command chief star in the center was exchanged for the CMSAF stripes which stand out as a highly distinguished symbol, representing all Airmen.
The exchange of the coat and service cap symbolizes the weight and consequence of assuming the responsibilities of the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force position.
“Chief Wright held a variety of senior enlisted positions…each time, providing his signature wisdom and a steady calm for a host of Air Force leaders,” Goldfein said. “The mantle of leadership of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force will test you and will tire you…but when it’s all said and done, and our Airmen have you to thank for supporting what matters most. You will look back and know it was worth every moment and effort.”
Wright is no stranger to guiding Airmen, serving in leadership positions throughout the Air Force, he is able to bring his experience to the new position.
“Chief Wright has been leading our enlisted force and advising commanders at every echelon, from squadron to major commands,” said acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow. “He has been the voice of Airmen at home and down range. Chief Wright is competent, poised, and intensely motivated and tremendously humble.”
Standing before the crowd as the new Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, Wright was overcome with joy, saying if he wasn’t so tough he may have shed a tiny, baby tear.
Expressing some of the areas he wishes to focus on during his time as CMSAF, Wright mentioned that training, leadership and resilience are at the center of the enlisted force.
“Our Airmen need to be well trained, they need to be well led and they need to be resilient,” Wright said. “We will have a deliberate focus on training to make sure they are ready to fight. We will have a focus on effective talent management to ensure that they are ready to lead and we will have a deliberate focus on total Airmen and family wellness to make sure that they are ready for life. These focus areas will ensure that we are there in every mission, in every domain, in every location. Ready Airmen are essential to our success.”
Wright accepted he has big shoes to fill, but said he is ready to lead today’s Airmen into tomorrow’s Air Force.