The chief master sergeant walked into the Airman Leadership School classroom and introduced himself.
Rather than talk about himself, the chief asked the students what was on their minds.
Chief Master Sgt. John Mazza, the 56th Fighter Wing’s newest command chief, is excited to be a Thunderbolt and eager to meet his new teammates.
“I learned to listen more than I speak,” Mazza said, referring to his first assignment as a command chief. “I don’t always have to be the loudest or most frequently heard voice in the room.”
As the 56th FW command chief, Mazza is responsible for the morale, welfare, training, management and professional growth of more than 3,000 enlisted members assigned to the Air Force’s largest fighter wing. The wing’s mission is to train F-16 pilots while deploying mission-ready warfighters.
Effective listening is part of good mentorship, which Mazza feels is important in today’s Air Force.
“When I first entered the Air Force, we had daily formations where they would check our uniforms, hair and shoes and then each Airman would branch off for a 20-minute daily conversation with their supervisor,” he said. “I didn’t know it was called mentorship at the time, but it was my daily 20 minutes with my supervisor, an opportunity to pick his brain, to see what was on his mind. In those 20 minutes, he would give me a rundown on how well I did the day before on projects I worked on. He would then give me information I needed in the professional military aspect. We did that on a daily basis.
“We don’t do much of that anymore,” Mazza said. “Some career fields still conduct roll calls or guard mounts, but we don’t have as much daily interaction for the most part. Everything is through email and it’s not as effective as the face-to-face interaction.”
Daily interaction is critical in a professional relationship, something Mazza learned in his career and would like to see more of in the Air Force.
“Relationships are important in the Air Force,” he said. “Command chief 101 is to develop and foster professional relationships because those relationships are the foundation for mission success.”
The command chief previously served as a civil engineer structural apprentice course instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and the Gulfport Naval Construction Training Center, Miss. Today, he uses that experience to mentor others.
“First and foremost, it taught me dealing with Airmen at their earliest stage is important,” Mazza said. “It’s important to instill that mentorship, that leadership and that discipline early in the Airmen’s careers.”
Education is also important in an Airman’s career, a fact Mazza is passionate about.
“I think education is vitally important,” Mazza said. “The fact that an Airman has taken the time to complete a degree says something about him. It changes his outlook on life and helps create a well-rounded Airman. An educated force is a better force and is why we are the best Air Force in the world.”
Mazza believes every Airman has the ability and desire to exceed standards.
“For everything we do on a daily basis, we can apply a standard,” Mazza said. “We don’t always need to wait for a supervisor to say we didn’t quite measure up. Do a daily assessment. We wake up every morning with the ability to go in and say ‘I’m going to exceed standards.’ That’s my philosophy.”
Moving forward, Mazza is excited to work with his fellow Airmen in getting the Luke mission done.
“I’ve been very impressed since we arrived here, from the first defender at the gate who greeted and offered me a post brief to everyone I’ve come in contact with this past week,” he said. “These are all professional and positive Airmen. We’re going to continue to do our part to move the ball forward on our base priorities while performing our mission of training the world’s best F-16 pilots.”