The Wisconsin Air National Guard’s new state command chief — the organization’s senior enlisted leader — outlined how she will approach her new role when she moves into the position June 1.
“My goal during the first two months of my assignment is to listen and learn — from our Airmen and from my leadership team,” said Chief Master Sgt. Meredith Conn, who is entering her 29th year of military service. “It’s really important that I have a good understanding of our leadership’s intent and direction on our most pertinent issues affecting Airmen and Soldiers.”
Conn — a Holmen, Wisconsin resident — said she desires to communicate successfully up and down the chain of command, saying her role is to advise and inform the adjutant general based on complete and accurate information from the force.
“We are setting our organization up for success if we ensure our Airmen have clear direction and understand the adjutant general’s intent,” she said. “Conversely, many of the decisions at the leadership level are driven by the knowledge of what’s going on in the field. Working with and supporting my team of chiefs will be the key to success in achieving this goal.”
Conn replaces Chief Master Sgt. Tom Safer, who held the post for about three years. He accepted a position late last year as the Air National Guard senior enlisted advisor for Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
Conn described her approach as “servant leadership.”
“At the heart of every interaction will be my intent to serve our Airmen so that they can confidently serve our mission,” she said. “Sometimes this means advocating on their behalf at the state and federal level for equipment, [training time and funding] or other resources. Other times it entails pursuit of training and developmental opportunities that will contribute to a diverse and highly skilled force.”
Conn plans to draw on her experiences — ranging from a traditional drilling Guard member working full time as a middle school teacher, her role as a wife and mother, to her most recent role as senior enlisted advisor at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center — in her new job.
Conn has a wealth of experiences to draw from in her new job. She began her military career with the active duty Air Force, and joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard while pursuing an education degree. She taught middle school full-time while a traditional drilling Guard member. She is a wife and mother. At Volk Field she was among the founding members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s State Enlisted Development Program, eventually becoming the program manager. She also served as Volk Field’s human resource advisor.
“I feel a connection to our drill status Guard members because I can relate to this desire to serve both the military and your community,” Conn said. “It’s an honor to fulfill these responsibilities, but sometimes that comes with challenges.”
She said her time with the State Enlisted Development Program and as human resource advisor exposed her to Airmen who were learning and discovering their strengths, weaknesses, talents and passions.
“I hope that when I leave this position, I was able to have an impact on developmental programs for Airmen,” she said. “Leadership and learning go hand in hand.”
Conn downplayed being Wisconsin’s first female state command chief.
“I think my contributions to the state leadership team and to our Airmen will be less about my gender and more about the diversity I bring to the table,” she said. “I offer new ideas, new perspectives, and new approaches. My gender certainly contributed to some of these differences, but it’s really only a slice.”
Conn said she wants Airmen to know she is approachable and relatable.
“For leaders who draw their energy from interacting with young Airmen, the COVID-19 isolation has been a challenge,” she acknowledged. “I am eager to get out and interact with our young Airmen, and I am eager to work with leadership on any challenges they are facing.
“I’ve never felt as optimistic about my future challenges as I do at this moment,” she continued. “We have a new team on board and I am really excited for this opportunity to be an agent for change.”