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From the Swamp to the Mountains: Barksdale first sergeants deploy in force in support of Bagram Airmen

(From left to right) Master Sgt. Aaron Lesher, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, Master Sgt. Troy Dubois, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Master Sgt. James Pruitt, 455th Expeditionary Medical Group, Lisa Hietpas, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, and Senior Master Sgt. Michael Martin, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, are all first sergeants from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., who deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, at the same time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

(From left to right) Master Sgt. Aaron Lesher, 455th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, Master Sgt. Troy Dubois, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Master Sgt. James Pruitt, 455th Expeditionary Medical Group, Lisa Hietpas, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, and Senior Master Sgt. Michael Martin, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, are all first sergeants from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., who deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, at the same time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Martin, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, stands at parade rest during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 30, 2017. Martin, who is the 2nd Munitions Squadron first sergeant at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Bagram with four other first sergeants from Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Martin, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, stands at parade rest during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 30, 2017. Martin, who is the 2nd Munitions Squadron first sergeant at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Bagram with four other first sergeants from Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

Master Sgt. Troy Dubois, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, stands at parade rest during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 20, 2017. Dubois, who is the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Bagram Airfield with four other first sergeants from Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

Master Sgt. Troy Dubois, the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, stands at parade rest during a change of command ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 20, 2017. Dubois, who is the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Bagram Airfield with four other first sergeants from Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
Five first sergeants from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to support the Airmen of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.

While units deploy together all the time, it is unusual for five first sergeants, from the same base, to deploy all at once and to the same location.

“Barksdale’s first sergeant council usually has around 13 to 15 members, with one or two being deployed at any given time,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Martin, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, who is on his fifth deployment to Bagram Airfield and is the 2nd Munitions Squadron first sergeant at Barksdale. “It seemed odd at first, to have five of us deploy at the same time, but was kind of awesome to deploy with people you know.”

Even though the initial tasking came as a shock, feelings of uncertainty were quickly alleviated. Barksdale has plenty of former first sergeants who rose to the occasion as well as the additional duty first sergeant program, which trains dedicated technical sergeants and senior NCOs on the duties of a first sergeant.

“The team of first sergeants I am fortunate to work with makes this loss more manageable,” said Chief Master Sgt. Teresa Clapper, the 2nd Bomb Wing command chief. “I did have concerns on home station impact and the Airmen who would be without a diamond wearing first sergeant, but that was quickly alleviated after the initial reaction, due to the additional duty shirt program. I knew we would be alright.”

As the link between the enlisted personnel and unit commander, first sergeants assist commanders on enlisted matters and inform him or her on the health, welfare and discipline of their people.

With their home station taken care of, these five first sergeants and the rest of the team can focus on the morale, health and welfare of the deployed Airmen.

A deployed environment brings with it new challenges and responsibilities that are not seen at the home station, said Martin.

“Here we take on a bit extra, like the lodging and getting people out of here when they reach the end of their tour,” said Martin. “However, we don’t deal with things like Airman Leadership School and Physical Training issues, which frees up a lot of our time and allows us to interact with our Airmen more. Family separation is also big, so we help out to ensure they are taken care of. When urgent family matters come up, we do what we can to support our Airmen or start the emergency leave program, so they can be with their families. ”

Even though a large portion of the first sergeants are from Barksdale, the strength is in the pack, according to Martin. The rest of the first sergeant team is just as important, and to have a cohesive unit, all must be on the same page to get the job done, which is taking care of Airmen.

While the team at Barksdale is taking care of home station matters, the deployed Barksdale first sergeants, and the rest of the council, are taking care of matters here.

“I am proud of each of them,” said Clapper. “They all stepped up and volunteered for the deployment. First sergeants are the epitome of servant leadership and when the call came out, they didn’t hesitate to step up.”