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    The Air Force’s First Female Enlisted Leader Broke the ‘Brass Ceiling.’ Here’s Her View on Retirement.

    The Air Force’s First Female Enlisted Leader Broke the ‘Brass Ceiling.’ Here’s Her View on Retirement.

    AURORA, — JoAnne Bass recalled getting a phone call on her birthday, one that would change not just her life and career but also history.

    It was July 15, 2020, and she was waiting for a phone call from then- Chief of Staff Charles “C.Q.” Brown, who was tasked with selecting the next chief master sergeant of the Air Force. She realized she hadn't thought about what she would say if she was told she hadn't gotten the job — then her phone rang. Brown told her she would be the first woman in the history of the Department of Defense to be the senior enlisted leader of a service branch.

    “It was emotional,” Bass recalled, tears welling in her eyes. “I said, ‘You made the right damn decision, sir.' And then we hung up, and then I bawled.”

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    It has been three and a half years since that phone call, and Bass will be stepping down as the Air Force's top enlisted leader next month. While her presence alone broke barriers for women in the , she also wanted to make the culture of the Air Force more accepting than the one that brought her up — a task she said was simply “the right thing to do.”

    “Did I experience barriers? I'm certain I have,” Bass said. “But if I ever experienced barriers myself, what it caused me to do is want to help make sure that there weren't barriers for others around me and…

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