By Master Sgt. Brian McFarland
92nd Medical Group
In the first few years of my Air Force career and more recently over my four-month tenure as an interim first sergeant, I’ve become increasingly familiar with a negative connotation associated with the position of the first sergeant.
More often than not, when I ask the question: “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a first sergeant?” The responses I’ve received include, “trouble, discipline, problems, standards, and Article 15s.” The majority of these responses come from, but are not limited to first term Airman with less than one year on station.
If you were to reference AFI 36-2113, The First Sergeant, it’s there in black and white ink. Words like “disciplinary actions, standards and authority.” While all of these attributes are vital to the force and serve a very necessary purpose in each and every unit, squadron and group across the Air Force, that’s not all a first sergeant is about. A first sergeant is a priceless asset to the men and women in the unit he/she is assigned to.
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “asset” is defined as “a useful or valuable quality, person, or thing; an advantage or resource.” Every piece of Merriam-Webster’s definition of an asset correlates to an Air Force first sergeant and what they are to the Airmen, NCOs, senior NCOs and officers assigned to their respective unit. The unfortunate truth about the successes had by first sergeants is that nine out of 10 times, they occur behind closed doors and stay between the member requiring some level of assistance, their immediate supervisor and the “shirt.”
You may hear about the trouble going on in the squadron and the discipline as a result of it, or you may see the “shirt” correcting a dress and appearance issue on the spot, and you might know that if an active duty member goes to jail, it’s the first sergeant that gets the call and facilitates the member’s release. At first glance, the aforementioned examples seem to have negative connotations behind them. If you were to look a little deeper and “peel back the onion” on these situations, the positive effect of the first sergeant’s actions will be staring you square in the face.
So, when the first sergeant discussion takes place with a first term Airman, whom for the most part, has a blank active duty canvas eagerly waiting to be painted with positive Air Force images and memories, my challenge to you all is to mention the good in the same breath you mention the bad.
First sergeants work 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week for the members of their respective unit and should the phone ring at three in the morning on a Saturday, your “shirt” will answer, wipe the sleep out of his/her eyes, and provide you with whatever level of assistance you need to facilitate a positive outcome.
Take care of the mission first, take care of each other to build trust and an unbeatable team and take care of yourself with a personal commitment to be the best.