TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Communication is key in any well-organized unit a special duty within the Air Force ensures that two-way communication is not lost in translation. Those Airmen are a source of knowledge to commanders and the voice of the enlisted force – a diamond in the rough.
The duties of an Air Force first sergeant have changed throughout the years, but one thing that has not is their dedication to the job and the Airmen. First sergeants, a job title that once stuck with an individual for the remainder of their career, was changed in October 2002 to a special duty lasting in tours of three years.
“The purpose of a first sergeant is to ensure a commander’s unit is mission-ready in both home station and deployed environments,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Little, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant. “We do this by promoting health, morale and welfare of personnel in the unit. Some of the ways we observe this is by getting to know our people, visiting their work centers, dorms, supporting agencies, and dining facility. These individuals are selected [to be first sergeants] from volunteer and non-volunteer avenues from the ranks of E-7 through E-9 and are sent through training for their future duties.
“Also, the first sergeant advises and assists the commander in maintaining standards and discipline. The first sergeant should lead by example and set a pace for the unit, provide sound and fair advice to unit leadership concerning disciplinary matters, and stay current on trends,” Little added.
According to Air University’s website, the U.S. Air Force First Sergeant Academy (FSA), a Community College of the Air Force affiliated course, consists of 115 hours of blended facilitated distance and resident learning. The Air Force FSA mission is to develop, through education and training, selected senior noncommissioned officers to serve as advisors to commanders on issues that impact our Airmen in successfully accomplishing the Air Force mission.
After completion of this task, the new first sergeants are then sent to a squadron that may or may not be within their career field and acclimate to their new duty.
“Right now, I would say the biggest challenge I have faced thus far, was getting to know two different squadrons and the Airmen that make them successful in such a short time,” Little said. “One of the ways I attempted to overcome this was by making myself as visible as possible at every opportunity.”
As new first sergeants come up the ranks, the more seasoned ones take them under their wing to show them how to operationally apply the knowledge they gained at the school house.
“There is no class which can truly prepare you. What you do every day will be based on judgement and quick thinking,” said Master Sgt. Scott Oberg, 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant. “Never hesitate to phone a friend. Every other first sergeant on this base is your friend and we are here to help. If you get stuck, or just need to run something by someone, call.”
As one of Tyndall’s newer first sergeant, Little has experienced Oberg’s sentiments and has felt like a welcomed member of his new community.
“There have been a few challenges from a first shirt business standpoint that I have worked, and one of the ways I overcame them was by utilizing my first sergeant network. Team Tyndall has a great group of first sergeants and they have offered me assistance anytime I needed them,” Little touted.
Whether seasoned or brand new, the first sergeants of Tyndall will continue to provide trusted advice to commanders and the Airmen they serve.
“Everyone is different; and understanding that is key to really cracking someone’s shell and getting them to open up,” Little explained, summing up his evolving first sergeant philosophy. “Being genuine, honest, consistent and credible are key to helping ease any tensions one may have about talking to the first sergeant. I try to initiate good communication with someone well before they need me. I try to find out things about the person that makes them ‘tick,’ such as their history, family, favorite sports or activity, future goals, etc. Getting to know someone on a personal level makes it easier during times when they need a first sergeant most.”