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People first, mission always

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

First Sergeants don’t just carry their own mission on their shoulders, they also carry a huge responsibility in helping other Airmen accomplish their mission.

A first sergeant’s mission is people. Everyone is their business. But how exactly do you find, train or even begin to prepare up and coming leaders for this position?

Experienced first sergeants from across the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing organized a First Sergeant Symposium, where they shared their knowledge with non-commissioned officers who stepped up to assist them in “undershirt” roles at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, April 7, 2021.

“The purpose of today’s event was to gather our Airmen who are interested in being first sergeants into a symposium to learn about the foundation of everything we do,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca James, the 407th Air Expeditionary Group first sergeant. “We are ambassadors, not only for the commander, but also for our unit’s health, welfare and morale.”

First sergeants and “undershirts” provide assistance in their Airmen’s personal and professional lives, directly affecting the Air Force mission in so many ways.

“As members here, we get to see what our first sergeants go through on a day-to-day basis,” said Technical Sgt. Scott Chance, a 407th Expeditionary Security Forces defender attending the course. “The best advice comes from someone who has already been there. Their experiences will help us prepare to step into that role so we can accomplish the mission and make a difference in Airmen’s lives.”

It takes a unique type of person to fill the role of a first sergeant because there is no clocking out or time off. The main message the 386th AEW first sergeants conveyed was that personal time and energy is required to take care of people.  

“We have to be very selective in seeing who has the human factor, the ability to truly care about Airmen,” said James. “Whether that means giving them simple advice and guidance, or helping them through one of the most stressful and devastating situations in their life.”

The members of this symposium aspire to someday earn a diamond on their chest. They want to make a difference in the Air Force, themselves and most importantly, in other Airmen’s lives.

Having a heart for people, addressing hard issues and helping Airmen through tough situations is a first sergeant’s mission. It isn’t always easy, but the reward is far greater than many jobs.

Their impact is beyond any type of bullet or award. It lives on through the difference they make in the lives of Airmen who are touched by their dedication and willingness to help.