Chief Master Sergeant Tori Jones: The Most Important Position I Will Ever Have
Chief Master Sgt. Tori Jones began her career in North Dakota 22 years ago at Grand Forks Air Force Base. At that time, the mission at Grand Forks included the KC-135 tankers in support of the B-52 bombers from Minot.
Her travels would take her to 15 different assignments before landing her position as Command Chief of the 5th Bomb Wing.
NS- So after four months in your current position, is it accurate to say when you arrived at Minot AFB you hit the ground running?
Chief Jones- Yes, I would definitely say so. The first few weeks I spent getting to know the people in as many of the units as possible. I got to know the 91st as well and better learn the challenges across the installation.
NS- So where have you been before Minot?
Chief Jones- This is my ninth assignment, but I think what is important is that I started my career in this state 22 years ago at Grand Forks Air Force Base. In that assignment, we had the tankers and the nuclear commitment as well so there were high standards. That first year prepared me for the deployments and all the other assignments I had. Now I find myself back here in the same state in a senior leadership position, but I literally view my time in Grand Forks as the launching of my career. My first certified shift in the command post was 9/11 of 2001. So, it was not long after that we boarded a KC-135 to fly several hours to an undisclosed location to assist Operation Enduring Freedom. The message that I try to get to the Airmen here is that yes, this mission is difficult, it’s challenging and there are high expectations and standards, but once you excel here, you will be well able to take one any assignment or positions the AF takes you to.
NS- In an interview with Col. Walters last year he said that he wanted to come to Minot because it is hard. The challenges are what makes Minot AFB such an elite base. Is that what you have experienced?
Chief Jones- I can’t say that in general Minot is the most difficult base because there are challenges everywhere. Some of the challenges we have at Minot exist at other bases too. Challenges like not having restaurants open longer and not having enough wait staff—those challenges exist at other bases—so of course we are working through those challenges.
NS- As you arrived on Minot AFB with the goal of getting around to all of the squadrons and meeting them…I assume you aren’t there yet, but realistically how long do you think it will take to accomplish that goal?
Chief Jones- No, I have not accomplished that goal yet. I may not get to every Airmen, but maybe every shop on the 5th side. I want to keep working on the touch points that Col. Hoadley and I have whether we’re out on the flight line or during small group discussions, or at installation events. The objective is to understand the challenges and seek creative solutions to better manage these issues. It is important for me to be approachable and to give out teammates credit who are doing a difficult job at a difficult location.
NS- So the banner on the wall tells me you are from Pittsburgh.
Chief Jones- I am a die hard Steelers fan. I love sports, but I find in the military most people follow sports which gives me an opportunity to find common ground and connect with our teammates.
NS- What do you do when you aren’t at work, not in the office, to get away from it all?
Chief Jones- I love to go shopping, and at this point in my life I am focusing more on self-care. But I am a person who likes to be out and about, and I have found the Bismarck mall offers quite a lot of options, as well as the local mall. I also really enjoy a good book, a fireplace and relaxing without cell phones. I am also a person who likes to put together puzzles. I don’t mean puzzles that take a couple of hours, I mean puzzles that take three months to put together. Also, I enjoy spending time with family and the great people we have met in the short time we have been here.
NS- So let me suggest that you have to try out curling as long as you are here. There are Minot AFB teams, and they will get started after the first of the year. In the past four years, the league has grown every year!
Chief Jones- I love watching curling in the Olympics!
NS- So far, how do you like Minot?
Chief Jones- Before we got here, we went to a North Face store in California and told them to give us the coldest gear they had, so I think we’re ready for the next few months of cold weather. We’re also excited about bringing together a group of people to work on incentivizing Minot. Our Airmen work hard here, and I think that it might help if we can recognize their accomplishments and the cost of being at this location.
NS- Do you see a difference when you meet Airmen who have been here for a year versus the Airmen who have just arrived on base?
Chief Jones- I haven’t really seen that yet. But the new Airmen want to get out and meet people and check out the community. You want them to do that because it gives them a better community experience, right? We also like to see Airmen sharing ideas, like “here’s a good place to hang out”, or “this is a great place to go eat.”
NS- Any additional thoughts?
Chief Jones- Yes, I would like to share that I view my position here at the 5th Bomb Wing as the most important position that I am ever going to have in my career. I feel this a great team and I am excited to be on it. I want to take the 5th Bomb Wing in the direction that Col. Hoadley has dictated. I’m not normally very patient and I like to get things done, this opportunity here suits me as I want to help improve the things that fall into my area of responsibility while trying to make sure our teammates and their families have an enjoyable tour here at Minot.