WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – “Continue to educate, mentor and grow one another,” is the advice Chief Master Sgt. Jason France offers the military and civilian Airmen of Air Force Materiel Command as he departs the command chief position here Sept. 28.
“Focus on the commonalities between our military and civilian Airmen and take time to create those positive engagements and interactions with each other. We’re all working toward a common goal, and if we’re going to be successful, we need to leverage the skills, talent and experiences of every one of our Airmen,” he said.
France will assume the command senior enlisted leader position at United States Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, a tremendous opportunity for the 29-year Airman who began his career as a military working dog handler before transitioning into leadership positions across the Air Force.
“When I look back at my career, the people who invested in me, mentored me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and encouraged me to take on new challenges…it all makes sense now. Those difficult and challenging opportunities gave me the latitude to gain experiences outside of my functional community, taught me different ways to think through problems, and showed me the value of taking risks, making mistakes and learning from them, all helping me to progress to where I am now,” he said.
France assumed the command chief position at AFMC Headquarters June 2016, though he has spent a large part of his career since 2009 progressing through enlisted leadership positions throughout the command. In addition to the command chief position here, he served as a squadron and directorate superintendent in AFMC units and also held command chief positions at both the Air Force Sustainment Center, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and the 75th Air Base Wing, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“I got to see the command before the five-center reorganization and watch IMSC (Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center) go from an idea to a reality,” said France. “The entire time that I’ve been a part of this command, the leadership at every level across the command, and the staff at every one of our locations, has been absolutely phenomenal.”
As the senior leader for more than 12,000 enlisted Airmen serving in a heavily civilian organization, France focused on ensuring all Airmen understood and realized the importance of their roles in helping meet the AFMC mission effectively for the Air Force and the nation. A large part of his time here was spent visiting and engaging with Airmen at the diverse AFMC locations where he gained first hand insights to the unique missions and impacts each bring to the mission.
“Each Airman in AFMC needs to understand down to the individual level, the importance of their work. To take the commander’s priorities and share them in a way that connects with different Airmen across our command who are doing a very broad set of missions is challenging, but very rewarding, too. The Air Force simply cannot fly, fight, win without the Airmen of AFMC,” said France.
The challenge, says France, is that AFMC Airmen do not always see immediate impacts and results from their day-to-day work. Compounding this is a lack of awareness or understanding outside the command about the impacts of AFMC work on every aspect of the Air Force mission.
“Our Airmen are not launching sorties where they can see the immediate results of what they do, said France. “Many of our Airmen work in the program offices or test organizations and are developing and testing capabilities that may not actually come out for years. Others work in our air logistics complexes, performing depot maintenance on aircraft they won’t see flying operationally. Getting that immediate reward for the work we do is sometimes challenging.”
“What impresses me most is the professionalism and humbleness that our Airmen display in the face of what may seem like thankless jobs but are truly important to the Air Force,” he said.
As the Air Force structure faces significant changes in the coming years, France sees this as an opportunity for AFMC to innovate and grow in its ability to provide that critical, agile support to our warfighters. The knowledge and skills inherent in the enlisted force are key to AFMC’s success in this change, says France, and he challenges all AFMC Airmen — military and civilian — to work together and include the enlisted force to make the best decisions throughout the command’s processes.
“Leaders at all levels need to find ways to incorporate our enlisted force into the things they do and the decisions that they make. Take time to understand the value we bring from our experience,” said France. “The places I’ve visited that do this exceptionally well are those places that have cracked the code and focus on the commonalities between our military and civilian Airmen, rather than the differences,” said France.
As he departs AFMC, France will take his box of family photos and trinkets to display in his new office as a reminder to stay grounded and focused on the “big picture.”
“They are the reason I serve and remind me not to get lost in the work,” he said.
He also offers a bit of advice to his successor.
“Make it yours. It will be a different time with a different commander. The environment in the command and the Air Force will call for different ways of doing things. Don’t focus too much on what I or my predecessors did because it’s yours now. Make it even better.”