Meet the Command Chief – Who is Chief Master Sgt. Annika L’Ecuyer?

  • Published
  • 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Annika "AJ" L'Ecuyer is the current command chief for the 363d Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing. She grew up in a small town (1,000 residents, not counting livestock) in Northeastern Kansas and is the eighth of 10 children, five sisters, and four brothers. Her parents are from a family of 11 and 12, resulting in a large extended family in the area. If you meet another L'Ecuyer, it is very likely, Chief L'Ecuyer is related to them by just a few degrees of separation. Chief L'Ecuyer's initial security clearance investigators had to overcome the challenge of finding someone to interview in her hometown that she wasn't related to by blood or marriage.

Since she was five-years old, Chief L'Ecuyer aspired to play Division I college basketball; however, outside of shooting thousands of shots a day and running her butt off, she had no clue about the politics and advocacy she would need being from a small school. So being from a large family with no money for college and having her Division I basketball dreams crushed (17-year-old Chief L'Ecuyer's perspective), she did what any "rational" teenager would do; she went to the recruiter.

Chief L'Ecuyer enlisted in July 1996 as an Airborne Communications Electronics Specialist (1A3XX), and, no, this was different from what she originally wanted to do in the Air Force. During her first trip to the Kansas City Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in March of 1996 to accomplish medical screening and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) testing, Chief L'Ecuyer already had a contract to be Security Forces.

That day, the MEPS recruiter changed her life, telling her that her ASVAB score qualified for more “cool” jobs and asked if she was interested in looking at a few others, and she responded, "What do you think I should do?" Well, here she is today, over 27 years later, believing that the MEPS recruiter's intervention paid dividends to her worldview and career. That intervention took her to over 76 countries providing communications support to our Nation's Top Senior Leaders, including the Supreme Allied Command of Europe, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the Vice President of the United States.

Every assignment has been fantastic in a different way; however, if forced to choose, Chief L'Ecuyer would rank her five years at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, at the top. This was her first total immersion into Operational Support and Distinguished Visitor Airlift, and the location and missions were terrific. This is also the assignment that Chief L'Ecuyer identifies as a pivotal turning point in her career. She leveled up in responsibility representing United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) as a technical sergeant at the Program Management Reviews, Technical Interchange Meetings, and requirements working groups for the senior leader communications aboard the C-40B (737 Boeing Business Jet), C-20H (Gulfstream IV), and C-37A (Gulfstream V).

Just as a career as an enlisted aviator wasn't in L'Ecuyer's plans, neither was the rank of chief master sergeant and indeed not command chief. She had always focused 100 percent of her efforts on her current job, said "Yes" when doors opened, and listened to her mentors when they recommended that she volunteer for a project or position.

She credits her success to listening to her sponsors and not shying away from things she thought she wasn't good at or that made her uncomfortable. When Chief L'Ecuyer found out she was hired as the next 363d ISR Wing’s Command Chief, she had difficulty believing it was true. Chief L'Ecuyer is only intel by marriage, and her last position as the 55th Operations Group Senior Enlisted Leader was her first tour in the ISR world but still in the comfort of an aircraft operations world. As an "Above the Zone" Chief, this was her last look to make the Command Chief candidate list, making it an even longer shot for her to get hired to a position.

Her wife, Samantha, is an active-duty Air Force 1N2C (signals intelligence analyst) which limited the number of interview slates Chief L'Ecuyer could be placed on to keep the family together. With a three-year-old son, Oliver, two golden retrievers, Callie and Hobbes, and a cat, Coyote Snack, a.k.a. Danger Beans a.k.a. Sally, Chief L'Ecuyer felt incredibly blessed to be selected for a position that could also keep her family together. Her family is her happiness and what she considers her most outstanding achievement, one which she strives to continue to be healthy and strong long into retirement.

Looking at where she is today, it might surprise you that Chief L'Ecuyer's career started out very rocky. She had her promotion to airman first class withheld for failure to meet standards and was on the edge of being separated from the Air Force. If it wasn't for Staff Sgt. Gil Collins and the advocacy of her flight leadership, Master Sgt. Porter, Master Sgt. Brown, and Lieuteant Peacock, she would not have gotten the chance to prove she was worth retaining.

She emphasizes how critical first-line supervisors are to the Air Force and that we should avoid getting wrapped up in the rank or duty title as signaling value or criticality of responsibilities.

"The Air Force is a team sport, and we all have a position to play; no one is more important than another,” Chief L’Ecuyer said. “So, when someone tells me I am more important as a Chief, I respond, ‘I have a different position to play, not a more important one’."