ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Guard welcomed its new senior enlisted advisor, Chief Master Sgt. Tony L. Whitehead, during a change of responsibility ceremony at the Pentagon Aug. 25.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief, National Guard Bureau, oversaw the transition between Whitehead and his predecessor, Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Kepner, who served in the position for almost four years. Whitehead brings not only nearly 40 years of military experience to the position but also the perspective of being the first African American service member in the National Guard’s top enlisted position.
As the SEA, Whitehead will advise Hokanson on all National Guard enlisted matters affecting training, utilization, health of the force, and enlisted professional development.
During the ceremony, Hokanson passed an NCO sword between Kepner and Whitehead to symbolize the transition of authority. Hokanson thanked Kepner for his assistance and mentorship during his time in the position, remarking on his commitment and dedication to the men and women of the organization.
“Thank you for your personal friendship and your exemplary service to the National Guard and our nation,” Hokanson said.
Hokanson expressed his faith in Whitehead.
"Today Chief Master Sgt. Tony Whitehead assumes the responsibility of the senior enlisted advisor, and he is the absolute right person for the role," said Hokanson. “He brings with him tremendous leadership experience earned throughout his distinguished career."
Whitehead most recently served as the command chief master sergeant of Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region, and command chief master sergeant of 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. There, his duties were to advise the CONR-1AF commander on the health, morale, and welfare of assigned enlisted personnel and their families.
“Chief Whitehead, your legendary energy and experience will serve you well in this important role, and I am very excited to have you on our leadership team. I look forward to working side by side with you to support the Soldiers, Airmen and families of the National Guard. I can’t wait to see the difference you will make,” Hokanson said.
Whitehead entered the Air Force in December 1982 as a security specialist. He served 10 years in the active component and joined the Florida Air National Guard in April 1994. His background includes positions and assignments in the security specialist and security forces career fields. He served as a security response team member, flight chief, and security forces squadron training manager.
He deployed as part of Operations Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom, performing duties as first sergeant and security forces manager. In September 2001, Whitehead assumed duties as the first sergeant of the 125th Fighter Wing. He became operations superintendent of the 125th Security Forces Squadron in September 2003.
Whitehead was selected as the Air National Guard Security Forces career field manager in April 2010, while also serving as the superintendent to the director of installations and mission support for the Air National Guard. He then took on the role of command chief master sergeant of the Air Guard Readiness Center before serving as the command chief of the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing until 2018.
In addition to his vast experience, Whitehead also brings great enthusiasm to his new position, which he expressed in his remarks at the ceremony.
“I’ve got a job to do, and I’m ready to do it. So, put me to work,” he said. “There’s a foundation that was put in place so that I knew what I was going to do when I reached this point. … I guarantee as I stand here today that I’m ready to it. I’m ready to do it because I have teammates, I have friends, I have family, and I have leaders. I have the Guard.”