Outgoing Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy retires and Chief Master Sgt. James Cody is welcomed as the 17th CMSAF Jan. 24 during a transition ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, Md. (Mike Morones / Air Force Times)
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody vowed to help make sure airmen know how to deal with "stress that comes from military life" during his first remarks as the service's top enlisted leader.
"We will focus on strengthening relationships, taking care of one another and holding each other more accountable for measuring up to the high standards that we demand of every airman," Cody said Jan. 24.
Cody is the 17th chief master sergeant of the Air Force, succeeding Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy, who is retiring. At his transition ceremony, Cody said airmen will meet future challenges amid shrinking defense spending by finding new ways to be efficient.
"However, we must be mindful of how much we are asking [of] them and how we're pressing them to take that time away from their families — and how we're compensating for that over time," he said.
Cody comes to the job from Air Education and Training Command, where he was command chief master sergeant. At his transition ceremony, he gave AETC commander Gen. Edward Rice Jr. a crisp salute upon receiving his new cap and coat.
"Gen. Rice has taught me many things, and among the ideas that I will carry forward to this position is there are very few areas in life where you get something for nothing: We have to invest before we can reap the rewards," Cody said. "We will continue to invest in the development of our airmen in the most deliberate ways possible. And we will ensure our force is ready to handle the challenges it will face in the future."
As Cody takes on the job as chief master sergeant of the Air Force, he will continue to rely on the counsel of his wife, Athena, a retired chief master sergeant herself.
"Athena, you make me a better man; you make me a better father; you make me a better husband; you've made me a better chief; you'll make me a better chief master sergeant of the Air Force," Cody said.
After his transition ceremony, Cody said he does not have plans to issue new guidance or instructions to enlisted airmen right away. For the time being, he plans to get "in sync" with Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and listen to airmen.
"I think you have to take the time to understand everything that is going on before you jump off the edge," he told Air Force Times.
Welsh said the decision about whom to pick as the next chief master sergeant of the Air Force was the most important one of his tenure.
Cody has been a "superstar" throughout his career, earning awards from every professional military education course he's attended and earning accolades such as major command senior noncommissioned officer of the year, Welsh said at the transition ceremony.
"But like Chief Roy, Chief Cody's love of airmen is what leaps off the pages of his record," Welsh said. "Chief Cody is known for hands-on leadership. He also routinely experienced TDY rates of over 200 days a year. And Chief Cody delivers the Air Force message with passion, and he inspires airmen to take ownership of their work, their professional development and the environment around them."
Welsh also had words of praise for Roy, who "led personally, face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder," often averaging 280 days a year on the road visiting airmen.
"He circled the globe; he made more than 10 trips to the battlefields of the Middle East, and at each stop, he looked young and not-so-young airmen in the eye, he told them exactly what he thought, explained what the Air Force was doing and why, and he earned their respect," Welsh said.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley called Roy a role model whose personal commitment to the welfare of airmen is his "defining quality" as a leader.
Donley also thanked Roy's wife, Paula, who was awarded a distinguished public service award for being a forceful advocate for airmen and their families.
"Thank you, Paula, for your deep and lasting contributions to our airmen and their families," Donley said. "We will deeply miss both of you."
In his last speech as chief master sergeant of the Air Force, Roy paid tribute to wounded and fallen service members, saying their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
"To the 690,000 total force airmen — in uniform and civilians — serving in the Air Force today: Thank you for a job well-done," Roy said. "I have seen firsthand what you do each and every day, and you have no bigger fan than me."
Roy became emotional as he thanked his family, taking a pause to regain his composure as he asked his wife to accept a "small token" of his appreciation. Paula Roy received a standing ovation as she received a bouquet of flowers.