MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- His passion for serving, hard work and dedication to his fellow Airmen have helped the new Gunfighter Command Chief get to where he is today. As the 366th Fighter Wing Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider provides enlisted leadership to a wing comprised of more than 4,300 military and civilian members serving in 16 squadrons and an Air-Staff supporting the F-15E Strike Eagle mission.
Snider grew up in Washington D.C. and in 1995, he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he supported Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR and Operation ALLIED FORCE. After serving honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps, Snider departed the organization in 1999 and joined the Air Force in 2000. Since joining the Air Force, Snider has been stationed and deployed to numerous bases across the globe. Prior to assuming his current position, he served as the Commandant at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
The chief shared his perspective as command chief in a recent discussion with the 366th FW Public Affairs office:
Q. How does it feel to be the command chief of the Gunfighters?
A: The first word that comes to my mind is humbled. I pinch myself every once in a while. It’s hard to imagine the little kid from Washington D.C., going through the things I’ve gone through in life, and then having the opportunity to serve in this leadership capacity. Being a command chief is a big deal, but to be the command chief of the 366th FW is even more prestigious. I’m really humbled to be able to serve.
Q. What are you looking forward to most during your time here?
A: I want to have an impact that is beyond this mission. I want to improve the living conditions, improve the base and help develop leaders. I want to impact lives and take care of people. That’s very important to me.
Q. Why do you think it’s important for Gunfighters to perform at the highest standard?
A: I think it’s important for the Gunfighters to perform at the highest standard because that’s who we are. I always say that’s it’s easy to say the core values, but it’s another thing to actually live it. Excellence is important, it’s what we do. We owe it to the people that we serve in this great nation, and we owe it to one another to make sure we’re doing our best. When you look at the history of the Gunfighters, it’s a history of excellence. It’s important for us to continue to do our best, so we can be ready to fight our nation’s battles when called upon.
Q. What inspired you to serve?
A: I saw a Marine in uniform, who I later found out was a recruiter. Seeing him in his uniform inspired me to serve. As I transitioned into the Air Force, my commitment level changed. I think I had a greater understanding of what it meant to be a part of the profession of arms, so I was fully committed to giving it everything I had. The longer I serve, the more passionate I become.
Q. With September being a month to reflect on our heritage, what past Air Force leader inspired you in your career?
A: The first person that stands out to me is Chief Master Sgt. Richard Mchose. He has a special place in my heart because, I remember when I was a Master Sgt. select he would come down on Fridays and would always talk to me. I didn’t understand what he was doing at first. Honestly, when he would do it, it was irritating because Friday’s are a time where you can let some people go home a little early and get a lot of work done. What I didn’t realize was that during those talking sessions he was actually mentoring and developing me. He deliberately developed me. He was hard on me when it came to my writing skills. He would give me his philosophies on leadership. I really didn’t understand the impact he had on me until I went to my next duty station, and I realized I began to talk like him, and my leadership philosophy mirrored his. I was very successful as a young Master Sgt., and I stood out among other Master Sgt.’s because of the things Richard Mchose instilled in me.
Q. What do you consider your proudest achievement in your military career?
A: My proudest achievement falls under the core value ’Service Before Self’. I’ve been married to my wife for over 10 years, and we found out she was pregnant with Samuel. We were really happy about that, but as soon as she found out she was pregnant, I found out I was going on a 365-day deployment to Afghanistan. It was a tough deployment, it was the first time I deployed, and I didn’t think I was going to make it home. A lot of people lost their lives. I remember it being extremely stressful for me. During the first half of the deployment (before I came home) I remember I really wanted to just see my son, and I didn’t know if I was going to see him or not. When I came home on my mid-tour I got to see him and all my stress went away. After a month, I returned back to Afghanistan and finished my deployment. I served to the best of my ability. When I came home, I never complained. One night I was home with my wife, and she looked at me and told me she was proud to be my wife. I don’t think anything is more precious to me than that moment. That deployment was difficult for me, I wanted to do the right thing, and I did the right thing. But for her to recognize that and tell me she was proud that I didn’t complain, it really meant a lot to me. To me, that’s my greatest achievement, I don’t think anything could top that.
Q. I read that you earned the Lance P. Sijan leadership award (one of the most prestigious awards in the Air Force). Could you tell me more about that?
A: Yes, I won the Lance P. Sijan award from the 18th Wing (Kadena Air Base, Japan), and it’s a pretty big wing. I was really proud of that award. During that time I was a Master Sgt. serving as a squadron superintendent. I got the job because of a Chief. He told me he wanted me to be the squadron’s superintendent. To be honest with you, I was nervous about it. I talked to the Chief. I think I told him something along the lines of “I’m going to talk to my wife about it” and the Chief responded with “… actually it’s not an option. I think you can do this.” He saw something in me, and he believed in my abilities. I was the superintendent for 700 people. It was a lot of responsibility, but I gained a lot of experience. It means more to me now than it did then because I know the heritage of the 366th FW and that Lance P. Sijan was the only member of the 366th to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Q. What advice do you wish you had early in your career that you would pass along to today’s Airmen?
A: Be your best. It sounds so simple, but I think people on that journey understand what I mean. It’s really something when you get to that point in your life where you’re free to be your best. Where fear doesn’t cripple you, or you’re not worried about what somebody is going to say. When you can just focus on doing the right thing and being the best version of yourself, and to not be afraid of that. Some people are afraid of success. I’d like to see people be the best version of themselves and maximize their potential. Coming into the Air Force is such a wonderful opportunity. The Air Force wants you to succeed, and every opportunity is given for Airmen to succeed. I strongly believe that I serve in an Air Force where you can go as far as you want to go, through great job performance.
Q. What challenges do you feel enlisted Airmen need to be most prepared for in the near future?
A: We have to focus on our training. Readiness is important. I say that because I’ve been in just about every major conflict since Operation ALLIED FORCE. The thing about readiness is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s important to continue to work hard, train, and make sure we’re ready, because we don’t know when our next battle is going to be. Our nation is depending on us to be able to execute. The game we play is for keeps. When it’s time to execute, we have to do it the right way, the first time. We may not have a chance to do it again.