Feature   Know Your Military

Face of Defense: Leading With Excellence

Aug. 3, 2020

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington didn't get to where she is today by going easy on anyone — least of all herself. 

Washington, the superintendent of the 355th Medical Support Squadron, became a chief master sergeant earlier this year — a rank that is the pinnacle of the enlisted force, attainable by only the top 1%. It takes hard work, superior performance and many years for any airman; for Washington, it's been a long journey in more ways than one.

An airman stands for a photo in a room with framed items hanging on a wall.
Office Portrait
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington, 355th Medical Support Squadron superintendent, stands for a photo in her office at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 15, 2020. Washington was the first in her family to become an American citizen, college graduate and U.S. service member.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert
VIRIN: 200715-F-NP794-1065P

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington
Job Title: Superintendent
Stationed: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Unit: 355th Medical Support Squadron

From watching her parents work in the fields of New Zealand, and from her own career path in the Air Force for the past 25 years, Washington understands that the best way to succeed in life is to be determined and unrelenting.

An airman wearing a mask holds out a brown paper bag from behind a counter.
Behind the Counter
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington, superintendent of the 355th Medical Support Squadron, works behind the counter at the pharmacy at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 15, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert
VIRIN: 200715-F-NP794-1037Y

"I am the first of my family to join the U.S. military, become an American citizen, a college graduate, travel the world and I am the first female Samoan chief master sergeant in the Air Force," she says. 

First, But Not Alone

Still, her path to chief "was never mine alone," Washington says. "I am humbled every day to work alongside airmen who make up our great Air Force."

As a leader, she believes the first step in keeping the Air Force great is to ensure her airmen are taken care of. "People often mistake my personality as being aggressive, but I am just assertive in matters that concern my airmen's growth," she says. 

Two airmen look at computer screens.
Monitor Monitors
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington, left, superintendent of the 355th Medical Support Squadron, works with an airman at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 15, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert
VIRIN: 200715-F-NP794-1057Y
An airman stands and talks to another airman in lab gear sitting at a bench.
Squadron Work
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington, 355th Medical Support Squadron superintendent, works with an airman at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert
VIRIN: 200715-F-NP794-1043Q

She hopes her own commitment to hard work and perseverance will be passed on to her airmen, allowing them to meet or exceed her expectations and reach their full potential. 

'Marathon Coach'

"To me, Chief Master Sgt. Washington is like an Air Force marathon coach; she picks you up when you can't run anymore and pushes you forward," said Tech. Sgt. Gabriela Gonzales, 355th MDSS Resource Management Office flight chief. "It can be painful sometimes but she will be running right beside you, pushing you to be the best you can be.

"Her transparency and her motto, 'I expect nothing but the best from my airmen' has stuck with me all these years."

An airman pours pills into a scale.
Measuring Pills
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Loretta Washington, superintendent of the 355th Medical Support Squadron, measures out pills in the pharmacy at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 15, 2020. Washington was the first in her family to become an American citizen, college graduate and U.S. service member.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert
VIRIN: 200715-F-NP794-1022Q

Washington has made an impression with her own leaders too.

"She demands superior performance and is involved with her airmen at all levels," Chief Master Sgt. Susan Hale, superintendent of the 355th Medical Group, said. "Her squadron is tougher, better and further developed due to her hands-on leadership."

A Chief's Charge

Washington describes her leadership role in simple terms. "My own charge as a chief is to make more chiefs," she says.

"My dream was to become a chief and make my father proud. Each airman has their own goals; my job is to make those dreams a reality."

Adapted from an article by Airman 1st Class Sari Seibert, 355th Wing Public Affairs.