Chief Master Sgt. Jason Q. Shaffer serves as the command chief master sergeant for the Air Force Materiel Command’s 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
As the wing’s senior enlisted leader, he represents more than 1,400 enlisted personnel assigned to Wright-Patterson AFB and 13 geographically separate locations. Shaffer primarily focuses on deployment readiness, professional development, proper utilization and welfare issues of assigned Airmen and their families.
He also advocates the installation commander’s policies, organizational goals and objectives to the enlisted corps, ensuring adherence to standards and mission accomplishment.
Before assuming his current position on July 21, he was the security forces manager, 6th Security Forces Squadron, MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida. He enlisted in 2000. This interview was conducted July 17.
It’s your first week on the job. It’s unfair to ask, but what are your first impressions?
Shaffer: Wright-Patt is big. There is so much going on; there are so many things happening. My initial impression is of the warm hospitality and how many people have their arms open wide for us.
That’s an awesome feeling — that there is a team ready to help you. My family has been so excited to see Ohio, and we have nothing but great things to say so far. The fact that this base and our mission are so important just makes it even more exciting to get started.
What most excites you about assuming your new position?
Shaffer: What’s exciting is that I’m taking over from my mentor. In your career you get so many people who want to take you under their wing and make you better. For me, that was Chief (Master Sgt. Stephen) Arbona. To sit here after meeting him 14 years ago, as he retires, is an uncomparable feeling of emotion. I’m going to try to carry on what he’s done here. I know his No. 1 priority was taking care of Airmen, and that will not change on my watch.
My job now is to help amazing people do their job and remove roadblocks. You will hear me say that a lot. I had a commander once tell me, “Earn it every day.” Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but every day. And I plan on earning it every day.
What are your priorities as you assume leadership of the enlisted personnel at Wright-Patt?
Shaffer: My priorities are threefold. First is to get to know Col. (Patrick) Miller and follow his “mission-focused, people-driven” mantra. I can’t agree more with that. I want to know him so at the end of the day, I can help the enlisted force understand the leaders who are trying to drive and push us where we need to go.
Second is to get out and meet the team. This base has amazing people doing amazing things every day. I want to see how they do that, what they need from me and help them get to know me. I want to start to build the trust as leader.
Third, and important for Team Wright-Patt, there are a lot of mission partners and higher HQ personnel here. I want to get to know them and see what we can do for them. I think that’s going to be important to how Wright-Patt goes forward.
What should Wright-Patt Airmen know about Chief Master Sgt. Shaffer?
Shaffer: I’m a motivated person. I’m all about, “Let’s get up and go.” I’m a very fitness-oriented person, believe in supporting families and am focused on culture. My leadership philosophy is “readiness, development and culture.”
It all starts with culture. What kind of culture are we setting? Do we have the foundation to let Airmen thrive, be innovative and to be inclusive for all to succeed? That helps people want to go to work and work hard, and work on behalf of their teammates. It’s working for the person to the left and right of you.
We can’t do it alone. This is a team sport and we need every member of this team. I truly believe if the culture is good, we have a unit and wing ready to move forward.
What’s a little-known fact or aspect about you or your command style you would like the community to know?
Shaffer: If you read my bio, you’ll see I have a big training background. I really believe that when it comes down to what we do in the military, it’s training. Being able to train your replacement, being able to train people is what I like to get after.
As for a little-known fact, I like to say I am an open book. What you see is what you get. I don’t believe in hiding anything. I probably seem overly competitive and want to win at all costs. Although I want to always give the effort to be first, it doesn’t bother me not to win.
Losing knowing you have given everything you have is more important to me. I tell my kids all the time, it’s not about winning – it’s about giving effort to be better and not worrying about the outcome.
You have served everywhere from the Pentagon, New Mexico, Texas and Florida to Africa, Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Pacific regions. How have those assignments shaped you and prepared you for this assignment?
Shaffer: I have been very fortunate in my career to meet amazing people – selfless teammates who are servant leaders. I have learned so much from those interactions. What’s been great about my assignments, deployments, permanent changes of station and missions is you realize how amazing our Air Force is. It wouldn’t be what it is without the people and those relationships.
We have to forge and build those relationships because that is what makes every assignment special. If you hear people complain about an assignment and you ask them who they work with, who their mentor is and what the culture is, it becomes apparent that they don’t have the key things to make it a successful assignment.
When you have people you like and people you want to work hard for, it’s really funny how great that assignment, mission or temporary duty can be. What I’ve learned at every stop is it doesn’t matter the hardship, it doesn’t matter the situation or the sacrifice if you have good people willing to work hard with you. Those relationships have set me up for this assignment.
You met Chief Arbona in Germany. How did he mentor you?
Shaffer: When I met him, he wasn’t about what I could do for him. It was what he could do for me, with his incredible, selfless character. When you are around people like that, you start learning how to be better and take care of people. That’s the kind of person you want to be; that’s the kind of guy you want to emulate.
From the moment I met him, that’s how it’s been. I have learned from him for 14 years. He also showed me how important family is to your success as an Airman, that being committed to your family doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your professional commitments. You can do both and be successful. I can’t wait to get involved in this wing to see what he has done and build upon the things he has accomplished.
Two years will fly by. Every time I meet a young Airman, I’m trying to pay back what he has done for me.
A year from now, what does success look like?
Shaffer: I see this wing as already extremely successful and I wonder how to build on that. I’m not sure there is a barometer that says, “We’re successful.” I hope in a year we have a culture that says, “I’m happy to be a member of Team Wright-Patt, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make Team Wright-Patt better.”
We’re ready to take on the mission. We have this pandemic going on. Are we ready to take on what’s next? Wright-Patt’s had a lot of things happen over the last several years. We’ve been ready. I hope the team will be ready for the next challenge.
I also want to make sure that in a year from now, we’re developing our people, through Airman Leadership School, the career assistance advisor and those kinds of opportunities that our senior leaders provide. Is development synonymous with what we do every day? If it is, then we will be successful in taking this wing in the direction Col. Miller wants.
What do you like to keep on your desk? What mementoes mean a lot to you?
Shaffer: I have an amazing family at home so I have their photo on my desk. They are wife, Tawny; son, Dallas; daughter Ashlyn; and daughter Teagen, who is an exceptional family member. I have an appreciation for life; you never know what can happen.
Don’t wait until tomorrow and don’t put off what you can do today.
You have to work hard every day, but you have to make sure you are taking care of your family. In this profession of arms in which we sacrifice so much, my family’s photo resonates with me. I also will have in the office a 105-mm artillery shell from Afghanistan, coins and such.
What is important is that I have had a lot of people who have been selfless and have given me so much of themselves. Those things help me remember them and our relationship. When I look at what’s on my walls, I remember that moment in time and that relationship.
That’s why mementoes are interesting and so important. They tell the story about the people who gave them to you. As a command chief, my responsibility is to tell people stories. I have to go out, tell people’s stories and build on those capabilities.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Shaffer: We cherish the opportunities with the family and make sure Teagen is always included. We have a travel trailer so we like to go camping. Nothing is better than unplugging from electronics, going out and listening to nature and the world as it is meant to be.
As I mentioned I love to stay ready and not get ready. So if you see me running around Wright-Patt or slinging weights in my garage, you’ll know what I am trying to do.
I like to read, watch good movies and connect with friends and family. Once per day I really like to call somebody, catch up and remember why that person is important to me.
Any final words, Chief?
Shaffer: I am ready to go. I can’t wait to take advantage of this opportunity. I’m here to work for everyone in this wing. I am ready to see how I can help them.
The No. 1 part of this job is to take care of Airmen and help Col. Miller push this wing to the next level. I’m ready for the challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing a place that is so great and so amazing get even better.