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Fillari chosen as new state command chief

New Jersey State Command Chief Master Master Sgt.  Janeen M. Fillari stands in front of a wall displaying all the enlisted ranks at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey Air National Guard, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 15, 2016. Fillari is the first woman to serve as the New Jersey State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the New Jersey Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

New Jersey State Command Chief Master Master Sgt. Janeen M. Fillari stands in front of a wall displaying all the enlisted ranks at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey Air National Guard, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 15, 2016. Fillari is the first woman to serve as the New Jersey State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the New Jersey Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

New Jersey State Command Chief Master Master Sgt. Janeen M. Fillari poses in front of the State Command Chief wall at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey Air National Guard, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 15, 2016. Fillari is the first woman to serve as the New Jersey State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the New Jersey Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

New Jersey State Command Chief Master Master Sgt. Janeen M. Fillari poses in front of the State Command Chief wall at Joint Force Headquarters, New Jersey Air National Guard, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 15, 2016. Fillari is the first woman to serve as the New Jersey State Command Chief Master Sergeant for the New Jersey Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/Released)

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst -- This year, and appropriately enough during Women's History Month, a woman was chosen to serve as the state command chief master sergeant - the highest ranking enlisted position in the New Jersey Air National Guard.

"Anybody can do it," said State Command Chief Master Sgt.  Janeen M. Fillari. "It takes time; you have to start early in your career; putting the hard work in."

Fillari, a former member of the 108th Wing, succeeds State Command Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Morton, also a former 108th member. She is also the first woman to serve as New Jersey's state command chief.

"My vision is I want to make sure the enlisted have every opportunity to progress in their careers and to make sure that they are well informed of what's going on, any issues and any opportunities. I want to make sure they are happy."

To Fillari, it's about showing people respect for what they do.

"If you are nice and you say 'thank you,' thank you goes a long, long way with people. Always tell them you appreciate them. I don't take them for granted."

That means going out and meeting people.

"I'm going to be getting out to the units, I don't want to do this job from in here (she gestures around her office); I want to be out and about," said Fillari. "I expect to be start visiting the units as soon as possible, to make sure people know who I am."

"I want to hear what people have to say. I want the E-1s, 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s to know that we work for them."

For Fillari, the key to all this are the chief master sergeants at the 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing.

"We all have to work together," said Fillari. "I don't want to solve all the problems; they have to solve the problems. I want them to critically think about what the issues are and be proactive."

For Fillari, everyone is involved in the process from identifying problems to finding solutions.

"What I would like to start doing is have town hall meetings. I want to know if there is something broken; then get ideas, suggestions; if we can do things differently, smarter."

Fillari pinpointed one aspect of her life that prepared her for each successive role she has served during her military career - education.

Her education credentials underscores that point: a paralegal certificate from St. Mary's College of California; an associates in Applied Science Paralegal Studies, Camden County College, N.J.; another associates in Paralegal Studies from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor of Science in Human Services in Legal Studies from Thomas Edison State College, N.J. and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies also from Thomas Edison State College.

"One thing I do want to do is host a contemporary base issues course," said Fillari. "It's a great course and it applies to everybody."

The course, which is taught by the Air National Guard Judge Advocate Generals, brings commanders and supervisors together as a team to identify, analyze and resolve contemporary problems leaders face. The course covers a variety of topics including standards on- and off-duty, progressive discipline and administrative discharges, unprofessional relationships and ethics in the military.

Fillari joined the Air Force in July 1989 as a services specialist and cross-trained into the paralegal career field in 1994, where she stayed until November 1998 when she transferred to the Reserves where she served as paralegal from 1998 to 2005.

In 2005, Fillari joined the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard as the law office superintendent.

And there it might have ended and Fillari would not have been standing in the state command chief's office had it not been for one person.

Fillari credits retired Chief Master Sgt. Maryalice Rebis with where she is today.

"She had always been a role model, a mentor; I used her as an example of this is what I am supposed to do, this is how I am supposed to act."

At Rebis' urging, Fillari applied as the Air National Guard Paralegal Liaison, Northeast Region.

"Had it not been for her, I probably would have retired from the 108th and not gotten involved at the national level."

Instead she applied and was chosen as the Air Combat Command senior paralegal manager for the Air National Guard.

"I'm a critical thinker. You have to be in this job. I like to find out what the issues are; make sure I have all the correct information. And then I like to solve the issues."

As the senior paralegal manager, Fillari assisted the ANG paralegal career field functional manager in providing guidance to Guard paralegals located at ACC wing legal offices.

"I worked a lot with senior leadership, talking out issues with them, addressing concerns."

It turned out to be the perfect training ground for the state command chief position.

"It was a crash course for this job," said Fillari.

This new duty is a big change from her previous position where she worked strictly with paralegals.

"There's not many of us out there that do this job, so I have deep respect for people that come in, put the uniform on and do what they have to do, work the long hours, put forth their best effort. I want to make sure we're rewarding our people and that we're taking care of any issues that are coming up."

"My motto is 'Your life is a resume.' You can choose if you want it to be half a page or if you want two pages filled. The key is never look back and wish you could have done something; do it."