By Tech. Sgt. AJ Hyatt, 363d ISR Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 22, 2021
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Chief Master Sgt. Jason Funkhauser is the Command Chief of the 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing (ISRW). Prior to assuming his current position in July of 2020, he was the Senior Enlisted Leader of the 548th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group (ISRG) at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.
Funkhauser joined the Air Force in 1996 and attended the Defense Language Institute, graduating from the Basic Modern Standard Arabic course in October 1997. Throughout his career, he has served in various positions as an Arabic Cryptologic Language Analyst, both stateside and while deployed.
As the 363d ISRW Command Chief, he serves as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Commander on all issues regarding the health, welfare, readiness, training, morale, professional growth, and quality of life of more than 2,500 Total Force military, civilian and contractor personnel executing operations at locations around the world.
During the interview, Funkhauser disclosed his competitive nature and goals for the upcoming year. We also discovered his plans to remain Command Chief at the 363d ISRW until summer of 2023.
What made you join the Air Force?
At 22, I was working two different jobs. I felt like I was going nowhere. My big brother was in the Navy and two other friends were in the other services and they said I should check out the Air Force. It was never in my plans. I just walked through the recruiter’s door and the rest is history.
[When I got in] The plan was - just do four years … grow up a little bit, get some money for education, roll out and do something else. But life had different plans.
Chief wasn’t even a goal. Chief, to me as an Airman, seemed unattainable. I only decided to reenlist the first time because I was married and had a young daughter.
When I reenlisted the second time at nearly 10 years, my goal was to do 20 years and not a day over. My time at Goodfellow Air Force Base as an instructor was a defining moment for me. It was here that I truly realized I was a part of something much bigger than myself. My purpose and my life became evident, and I “joined” the Air Force. The chief master sergeant possibility really hit me when I made senior [master sergeant] … at about 18 years, which to me – I couldn’t believe it.
What job did you come into the Air Force as?
I came in as an Arabic linguist. [Initially], I wanted to work on aircraft. I figured that’s what Air Force does – work on jets. Growing up in Southern California – I was fluent in Spanish, so my recruiter had me take the language aptitude test – I passed it and that was that.
You’ve won many awards (Levitow, DGs, etc.) What drives you?
Being the best. I’m very competitive, and the competition is against myself. I’ve never thought of competing with my peers. I always reflect and ask myself what I can do better.
When I talk to people about being the best – I mean are you being the best version of yourself? Are you giving maximum effort? I compete with myself. For the PME awards, I don’t know if I ever felt like I deserved them. I was doing the same things a lot of my classmates were doing. Just helping one another be the best versions of ourselves.
What has been one of your best assignments?
Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. It’s been my favorite. I’ve been there three times, once as a student, once as an instructor and once as the Senior Enlisted Leader of the 315th Training Squadron. There’s something special about Goodfellow - It’s the mission and the people
That mission of training our future ISR professionals (to me) is so rewarding. My favorite time there was when I was the SEL of the squadron. You have such a pivotal role in guiding, shaping, and molding the future of the ISR. I loved having the ability to interact with those Airmen and share my journey into the Air Force, because my journey is just like most Airmen's. Most don’t enlist in the Air Force with the thought of serving their country with the possibility of laying down their life. I didn’t enlist for that reason. My goal was to get some education and get away from home. Being able to impart what it means to be an Airman and being relatable, I enlisted for many of the same reasons you did, but let me tell you why I stayed. If I can give them a sense of purpose – I love that.
What is your favorite core value?
Integrity. Just because I think everything starts with integrity. Each of those core values (integrity, service before self, excellence in all we do) they have subsets. Under integrity, you have honesty, courage and accountability. When I think of honesty – that’s not just being honest with other people – it’s being honest with yourself – am I living up to the type of person I expect of myself and at the same time am I living up to the type of person I expect YOU to be? I can’t tell you to do something – if I’m not going to do it. So, I think about those things: my PT, my professional development, am I leading my family right? Being true to yourself, being true to other people.
The courage portion – that can be hard earlier in your career. When I walk into the commander’s office and tell him something that he doesn’t want to hear, that can take courage. Courage is sometimes being scared to death or nervous of what the outcome will be, but you still do it because it’s the right thing to do. I try to live by that and I teach my children that.
The accountability piece under integrity is really one of the most important aspects because that’s holding yourself accountable. I think far too often it’s easy to point the finger at something else, or find a reason why you didn’t get what you wanted or it didn’t go your way. I think a lot of people don’t look in the mirror first and ask themselves “what could I have done differently?” or “how did my actions or decisions cause this outcome?"
If you can do all those well, [the other core values] will come.
What makes a great service member?
Selflessness for one – it can’t be about you. That’s difficult for some people. Service isn’t’ about you. It’s about the mission. The people around you. The country that we support and defend.
It’s like the John F. Kennedy saying “Ask not what your country can do for you, what can you do for your country?” When you serve … it’s not what can the Air Force do for you…what can you do for the Air Force” – I think of it like that.
Passion, drive and commitment. It can be difficult – I’ve been that Airman that didn’t like their job. But, if you don’t like the job you are doing, then find passion in something else – be passionate about the people you are working with. Be passionate about developing others. Then be committed. If you’re going to do something, stay the course. Don’t quit when it gets difficult or uncomfortable. Adversity and hardship is where growth happens.
What is your hidden talent?
I’m an artist. I do a lot of cartooning [and] I draw on everything. I try not to do it at meetings because it looks like I’m not paying attention, but it helps me concentrate.
I love playing cornhole, can jam, ping pong, and any of those outdoor yard games. I also love playing basketball. The most enjoyable thing about these games is the banter. The game is fun, but it’s the back and forth, the jawing at each other, the friendly banter – I absolutely love that. It just builds the camaraderie, and comfortableness with each other.
I’m a huge basketball fan and player. I can hold my own [with the Airmen in the Wing]. I think they might’ve been surprised that the “old guy” can actually play.
My biggest hobby, hands down, is my wife and kids. I love building memories.
What are your priorities as the Command Chief?
There’s no handbook. As a Chief, as the command chief at this wing – my first priority is the Airmen. Do they have the things they need? How can I make it easier and better for them?
My second priority is developing future leaders. Any time the boss and I go on TDY, I either go a day early or stay a day after so I can provide a professional development session for the Airmen. It’s usually just me, spouting off the stuff I’ve learned over 25 years – trying to add to the toolboxes of our future leaders. I’m hoping to help develop the future of our Air Force.
If you serve 20 years in the Air Force and make master sergeant, you’ll get 74 days of PME (that’s ALS, NCOA and SNCOA). If you are fortunate enough to make Chief, then it's 94 (PME days). If you serve 20 years in the AF that’s about 7,300 days. So, minus the 74 or 94 days, what are we doing with the other 7,200-plus days toward development? When that was presented to me, I decided I’m going to make that a priority of mine to fill in some of those 7,200 days.
Is there anything else you would like to add?