Women's History Month: A SNCO's perspective

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Chief Master Sgt. Shanece Johnson is the 31st Fighter Wing's interim command chief and is a 22 year U.S. Air Force veteran from Washington Park, Ill. The rank of Chief Master Sergeant is the highest enlisted rank. As interim command chief, she serves as the senior adviser to the commander.

How does it feel being a woman in a leadership role? Why is it important to set the example for female generations to come?

I don't feel any different because I have a bold personality. I'm not boisterous by any means but I believe in myself and have confidence in the skills the Air Force has given me. I do think it is very important to pave the way for young Airmen--not necessarily because I am a female but because I have different experiences in life that I bring to the table. Diversity is key to ensure all the doors are open and the way is clear for everyone to succeed in the military.

Why did you decide to stay in the military?

I believe that when you raise your right hand to say the oath you have to know that despite everything, you need to live by its principles. I'm not retiring yet because, to me, it's important that young Airmen see women in leadership roles as it may help break that glass ceiling. Some of those ceilings we create ourselves and it's hard to say "I can get there" if you don't see yourself in it.

What do you think about the women who have paved the way for us today?

I have nothing but love for the women who have paved the way for us. If those steps weren't taken, we wouldn't be where we are today. Women like Esther Blake, the first woman to enlist in the military, were very courageous. To consciously make that decision is very courageous because these women knew they were going to encounter a lot of opposition, but someone had to do it.

Do you have any advice for women hoping to join the military?

For anyone joining the military, I would say to make sure it's what you really want. To females in particular, the sky's the limit. If you make the decision to join, always move forward.

Do you have a personal motto?

My grandmother would always say to me, "Shanece, don't ever let someone's opinion of you become your reality." I use this quote for whichever situation I find myself in because what others say will not stop me from being me.