The Air Force’s top enlisted leader had the final word in a whirlwind four-day social media drama that generated thousands of angry comments and dozens of bad memes, and all because of a four-letter word: Bass.
The drama began Saturday when an airman, Staff Sgt. Banks, asked Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass on Facebook whether her last name was pronounced like the species of fish or the musical instrument.
Bass, who no doubt has answered that question a trillion times already, accused the airman of trolling and said she would be calling him on Monday.
“[S]eems like you and a few of your friends enjoy trolling our Air Force sites,” Bass wrote. “Give me a call Monday … I’d like to chat about it.”
She later added: “My team has SSgt Banks’ info … as well his crew. I’m sure there’s a solid explanation. Right?!?”
Airmen on Facebook and Reddit erupted with memes and comments about the exchange. Some cackled at what they perceived to be the impending demise of Banks' Air Force career; some attacked Bass for overreacting to a social media jest; others defended her for rightly cracking down on a troll; still, others wondered how this came to be such a big deal in the first place.
Bass herself seemed to bring order to the unruly court with an update on her Facebook page on Monday.
“Teammates — I just had a good conversation with SSgt Banks,” she wrote. “His question was simple and honest, but having him and a group of people ask it repeatedly across multiple posts was trolling.”
"An Air Force that values diversity and inclusion must be built on a foundation of respect," Bass wrote. That can’t happen if people are brutalizing each other on social media.
“[R]espect is a two-way street that doesn’t end when our Airmen decide to engage on social media,” Bass said. “I’ve seen a few comments that have been more than a little disrespectful toward SSgt Banks. That’s not okay. That’s not who we are.
“Our culture is based on respect and values diversity and inclusion,” she continued. “Let me be clear, the culture we need is not one that we can turn off and on like a light switch. We need people who are all in and ready to get after it. It's collectively who we are that makes us better.”
Bass also used the hashtag #notakaren to address some airmen who had targeted her as a “Karen” in earlier comments. Other hashtags included #respect, #bekind, and #bettertogether.
Some airmen praised the enlisted leader for the way she handled the episode.
“Chief! This is the perfect way to provide a lesson on leadership,” one wrote. “Just shows how much you truly earned your position. Thank you for making all of us and SSgt Banks better leaders!”
“Well done and said ma’am!” said another. “Ppl were getting out of hand with the memes! Glad we have a classy, respectful and yet strong CMSAF showing the way and being the example we most definitely need!”
Oh, and again, the correct pronunciation of Bass is with a short 'a' sound, like the type of fish.