An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Diamonds cut diamonds: First Sergeant Symposium arms Airmen for future role

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan

Tuskegee Airman, Brigadier General Charles McGee, once said “Our story is not just about what we did, but about education and taking advantage of opportunities that exist.” A sentiment the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing First Sergeants employed by providing a six-week First Sergeant Symposium to a select group of Non-commissioned officers, senior NCOs, and two Company Grade Officers in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

A First Sergeant is the “eyes and ears” of a squadron and serves as a critical link between matters impacting enlisted members and the commander. Their primary mission is to take care of Airmen; providing advice to the commander on a wide range of topics including the esprit de corps, discipline, mentoring, well-being, career progression, recognition and professional development of all assigned enlisted members.

“Our purpose and intent for this symposium is multi-faceted but has two primary objectives. The first being to prepare Tech. and Master Sergeants who have interest in becoming a First Sergeant with insight of the roles and responsibilities levied upon the position,” Master Sgt. Daryl Tigert, 55th Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron first sergeant, explained. “The symposium guides these members on how to respond to various issues and circumstances, how to leverage the appropriate resources to better help our Airmen during critical times, and how to be better equipped when advising Commanders.”

This primary objective allows the facilitators to train and equip future First Sgts, commonly referred to as “Shirts,” while also providing training to the 332d AEW temporary “Shirts” which enables them to step in and fill the role in the absence of a First Sgt. This capability affords current First Sgts the ability to recharge and avoid burnout, a critical ability for First Sgts to exercise because they’re accountable to respond to the needs of Airmen 24-hours a day, seven days a week and, may at times, be required to work long and irregular hours.

The second objective of the symposium is to pass down insights, experiences and advice to the NCO’s while also ensuring a networking and rapport building element is built in; two critical attributes of a Shirt, Tigert said.

“Not all attendees wish to become a First Sgt., but rather they wish to arm themselves with more tools for their leadership toolkit,” Tigert said. “I can think of no better tool than that of networking because I’m sure we all have at one point thought back and thought ‘had I only known then what I know now.’”

A range of information is presented in each course which includes resources and an overview from helping agencies, legal, Office of Special Investigations, Equal Opportunity, death and command responsibilities, sexual assault response coordination, as well as counseling, confrontation, and dispute management and more.

“Our Airmen often look to their Shirts as knowing all the answers,” Tigert explained “But when we find ourselves stumped, we have the greatest network of knowledge and experiences at our finger tips - each other! I believe the greatest network in the Air Force is the First Sergeant Network. When I need help, I get help. So the message to our Symposium attendees is to remind them that they are not alone.”