88th Air Base Wing command chief reflects on ‘unprecedented’ tour

Chief Master Sgt. Shaffer praises team ahead of departure

Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley

Credit: (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley

Chief Master Sgt. Jason Shaffer could not have anticipated a worldwide pandemic or the timing of international conflicts when he assumed his role as 88th Air Base Wing command chief, but he stepped onto the installation ready to adapt and serve.

Two years later, he has led and encouraged thousands of Airmen through trials — from unique deployments and operating environments to morale threats.

Between packing, farewell ice cream parties and wrapping up a T-ball game or two, Shaffer told Public Affairs about his experiences in the seat.

Could you think back on your time as command chief at WPAFB and walk me through the wavetops that stick with you?

The people! This tour happened during unprecedented times in our country. I am blessed to serve next to an awesome leader and better person in Col. (Patrick) Miller. Then, to top it off, the people of this wing and community are second to none.

The support from our community partners, the amazing professionalism and work ethic from our teammates, and the unwavering dedication from our family members has made this tour so special. They say it goes by fast, and unfortunately it did, but I will always remember the people who we worked with side by side. It was awesome, and I wish I had more time.

What command achievements are you most proud of during your time here and why?

The first thing I am proud of is the development opportunities we have established. Airman Leadership School mission-focused dialogue and inclusion of civilian Airmen, the establishment of the First Term Officer Course, SEL 101 Course, chiefs professional development and most recently, the Wright Path University, are but a few of the development opportunities we have built to increase our team’s capability.

It was a passion of mine, and I can’t say enough how amazing Master Sgt. (Kelly) Graham, Senior Master Sgt. (Stephanie) Zengerle, Master Sgt. (Kelaine) Smith and all those who invested in making development a priority were. The ‘Let’s Get It Wright’ monthly video series, Augmentee Review Board, quarterly intel briefs, tiered mentorship; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Office; vaccine and refugee support, and common operating picture advancements. The list goes on and on. Just seeing how much we as a team accomplished was amazing.

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Credit: Ty Greenlees

Moving forward, what other developments are in store for wing personnel?

The biggest change is some of the second and third effects from the pandemic. COVID brought changes to how we operate that will impact our teams for years. Finding ways to balance telework and connections is going to be a constant fight. I think telework isn’t going away, but we have to find ways to bring people together and have social connections, not only through a screen or website, but more importantly in person.

What were some expectations you carried into your role here? How did reality meet and veer from those expectations?

I wanted to support the Airmen and be the advocate Col. Miller needed. From day one working with Col. Miller, I knew he cared about my advice and would listen. I didn’t want to let him or the team we supported down. Working to help them do their mission was my focus, and I believe it exceeded my expectations. I was focused on development, readiness and culture. I think we hit all those lines of effort.

What do you like most about Col. Miller? What have you learned from working alongside him?

Col. Miller is an amazing leader. His sincere care for our teams and their families is genuine, and working for him has been one of my career highlights. I would not have wanted to serve with anyone else during such unprecedented times. He puts everyone’s needs above his, truly cares for the entire officer, enlisted and civilian force, and makes sure we are always thinking about families. I have learned so much about being grounded in thinking about decisions and making sure we do the right thing for everyone and not only some.

What distinguishes Wright-Patt from other base communities you’ve served?

This installation is just amazing. The community is what sets our base apart. They are 100 percent all in to make things better for this installation. The area does so much to make every member feel this is home. I loved being part of the greatness that is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and I will cherish the friendships I have made with those inside and outside the installation.

How do you feel these two years as the wing’s command chief have changed YOU? How has your time here made you a better leader?

I would say I have grown more than changed. I am still grounded in faith, family and service, but I have grown in how I go about those. The job is amazing, but setting ground rules and following those is vital. I have learned how important being an advocate for the team to the wing commander is, and I can’t take that for granted. Every day is an opportunity to help the team, and I loved making a difference for our teammates. Building relationships every day and understanding how important it is has made me a better leader.

Where are you headed next, and what new skills and strengths do you feel equipped to carry from Wright-Patt to that new base?

I will be headed to the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base (Arizona). I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve our great Air Force. The dynamic environment of Wright-Patt, with all the mission partners and people, has really helped me stay on target and earn it every day.

Those skills will help me as I roll into Thunderbolt nation. This wing might not own any fancy hardware, but we owned the most important asset our force has — it’s the people and being all in on them will help me as I get back into an operational and training wing.

We’ve seen you upbeat and on the job for the last two years, but what are some activities that helped you unwind?

My family keeps me going. I coached football, baseball and basketball. It was year round. So my three kids and amazing wife gave me so much support. It helped me come to work ready to do everything I could. Trust me, the hardest thing I have done in the last two years is coach T-ball. Trying to get ten 4- and 5-year-olds to follow directions was way harder than it looks. They put to the test all the leadership skills I have. I was ready to get to work, trust me…HUA!

How has your wife helped the wing, both alongside your objectives and in her own right?

My wife has been the rock our family has needed. She sacrifices so much to allow me to give all I have to the wing. We have had a tough go the last two years. Losing my dad early on in my tenure and dealing with the multiple surgeries and emergency room visits for my daughter has been hard. Through it all, my wife was a rock. I would not be the leader I am without her.

What would be your parting message for the wing community?

THANK YOU! I will never forget the last two years. I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to serve alongside Col. Miller and Team Wright-Patterson. I might be moving on to a new challenge, but I will always be a member of this team. I know the team will continue to flourish. I look forward to crossing paths again. Stay ready and earn it every day, teammates … HUA!

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