Columbus AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Columbus Air Force Base held a Chief Induction ceremony July 22, 2021, to recognize the achievements of Chief selectees Senior Master Sgt. Joi T. Washington 14th Force Support Squadron superintendent, and Senior Master Sgt. Melissa D. Bridges, 14th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron superintendent as they were inducted to the highest rank of the enlisted force: Chief Master Sergeant.
In 1958, Congress passed The Career Compensation Act, paving the way for the new ranks of E-8 and E-9. Only one percent of the enlisted force could serve in the pay grade of E-9. Chief Master Sergeants hold key leadership roles at all levels throughout the Air Force, often serving as command chiefs that advise the wing commander on issues affecting the force, and serve as commandants, functional career field managers and superintendents. The Chief Selects and their families met with the commander of the 14th Flying Training Wing, Col. Seth W. Graham, and the command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Antonio L. Cooper, for the traditional Medallion Ceremony before the Induction Ceremony.
“The Medallion Ceremony is a private event for the Chief Selects and their families. There are many versions but the purpose is the same,” said Cooper. “It signifies a rare milestone for our enlisted leaders but also outlines the expectations, roles and responsibilities that will be required from our future Chiefs.”
Bridges serves as the 14th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron superintendent on Columbus AFB. As superintendent she provides leadership and effective utilization and management to organize, equip and train 61 assigned personnel supporting the Columbus Air Force Base community and personnel medical needs. Bridges advises the squadron commander on matters concerning authorizations, assignments, personnel, morale and welfare. She is currently the 4N Functional Manager for the 14th Medical Group and is responsible for the medical development of 18 medics.
“You don’t have to be a chief to be a leader. If you have someone who is accountable, networks, sacrifices and has empathy, confidence, and emotional self-awareness, we use all of these things as a leader to recognize how we need to bring people with us,” said Bridges. “Holding people accountable and collaborating is how you build teams because we can’t do this job alone.”
Bridges entered the Air Force in January of 2002 and graduated from the Medical Services Technician course at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas in July of the same year. She held many roles throughout her career to include supporting OPERATION FREEDOM’S SENTINEL and the NATO Resolute Support mission.
“Excellence is a standard and not an achievement,” said Bridges. “It lays the foundation for everything we do.”
Washington served as the 14th Force Support Squadron superintendent on Columbus Air Force Base. She was responsible for providing mission support through the Manpower and Personnel, Service Sustainment, Force Development, Airman and Family Services, Community Services, Honor Guard and Installation Personnel Readiness offices to over 3000 personnel and family members. Washington provided comments during her Permanent Change of Station to her new duty location.
“As a chief I want to further advance our inclusiveness,” said Washington. “Yes, we make great strides in our Air Force to be inclusive and have diversity, but I want that to have a bigger impact to where we’re not just doing it, it’s an automatic thing. We’re not making a conscious effort to do it, it just comes natural.”
Washington graduated from the Personnel Apprentice Course at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi and has since held numerous roles in personnel programs and policy in the numbered Air Force and squadrons assigned. She deployed in support of Operations: ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, RESOLUTE SUPPORT and INHERENT RESOLVE.
“I want to leave behind great teams, and I know that sounds crazy but you’re not getting anywhere without each other,” said Washington. She also expressed the need for a teamwork mentality throughout a service member’s career in the Air Force. “We can’t build anything alone.”