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New AMC command chief is proud to be an Airman

Headquarters Air Mobility Command

Published: 12:00AM November 24th, 2015

“Airman up!” is a phrase that Air Mobility Command can expect to hear often from the new command chief.

Chief Master Sgt. Shelina Frey loves being an Airman and expects others to hold their head up high, she said.

“I want our Airmen, with a big ‘A’, to be proud ... to know the Airman’s Creed and to sing the “Air Force Song.”

The chief arrived Nov. 9 after serving at 7th Air Force at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Although AMC’s mission is different, she said her favorite aspect of the job will remain the same: getting out from behind her desk and spending quality time with those who serve.

“That’s when you really hear how they feel about any and everything,” Frey said. “To inspire Airmen to be innovative, first you have to figure out what their concerns are. ... What motivates them to get up every day, to want to come to work, and what keeps them up at night?

“Then you have peel the onion back, one layer at a time — not do the cookie-cutter thing we sometimes do of treating Airmen all the same,” she said.

Since she was a child, Frey’s parents encouraged her to believe in her unique qualities by defining who she was and not allowing others’ perceptions to define this for her, she said.

“There so many things going on in this world,” she said. “If you try and adjust yourself to every change, then you will never know who you are. But if you get to know ‘you’ and have self-respect, everything will fall into place.”

Self-respect, loyalty and passion are values instilled by Frey’s parents. She said she grew up the oldest of three children in a safe neighborhood of New Orleans, La., where kids played outside after the street lights came on. She went to church and had family dinners often, and to this day her favorite dish to cook is red beans and rice with fried chicken.

“We are not defined by our jobs, we are defined by who we are,” Frey said. “I learned early on our Airmen struggle with this. But if you know who you are, then other people will be able to know who you are. It will also help you develop and figure out who you want to be in the future.”

The chief’s future as an Airman was like many paths of self-discovery. It took a while. She left a teacher education program in college to work in the same hospital where her mother worked. In 1984, after a discussion with her uncle in the Army and some research, she joined the Louisiana Air National Guard as a vehicle maintainer.

One year into the Guard, she knew she wanted more and began pursing active duty. Then on May 14, 1987, at 25 years old, she was on her way to her first duty station as an active-duty Airman.

“I believe being in the Air Force was my calling,” Frey said. “I love being an Airman.”

Frey is AMC’s first African-American woman to fill the position of command chief. She said this is an honor, but being an African-American woman is an important part of many qualities that make up who she is.

“More than I am excited to be the first African-American female command chief, I am excited to be an Airman who is able to impact and influence change,” Frey said. “I am Airman, chief, command chief, African-American, female ... all those things together is what makes this exciting.”

She is also excited to inspire Airmen to be ready.

“They can expect me to engage with them directly and indirectly,” Frey said. “They can expect me to be approachable and passionate about their needs. And last, to focus on maintaining a certain level of readiness.

“We never know where we will be called upon, because the AMC mission is global. When the bell rings, you better be ready.”