Diamond in the rough, preparing a new generation of First Sergeants

GOLDWATER AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ariz. --

Airmen can be called away to perform duty at a moment’s notice, but what happens when it’s the first sergeant who is called away? Who can fill those very important boots? Who will the Airmen turn to for morale, life and readiness issues? Who can Airmen call? They can call the additional duty first sergeants.

A first sergeant, or first shirt as they are often called, is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of the enlisted members in their unit and advises their commander about the enlisted force. The first shirt has at least one volunteer additional-duty first sergeant who are well trained and equipped for this immeasurable responsibility.

To prepare these Airmen, they attended a three-day First Sergeant Symposium training course where they learn how to respond to situations where a first sergeant may be needed.

“The training the Airmen receive is something they have never been exposed to,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rachel Landegent, 161st Air Refueling Wing first sergeant.

She said the Airmen who volunteered for this additional duty are going way above and beyond what most Airmen are doing.

As an additional-duty first sergeant, they will be expected to take responsibility for everything that happens within their unit when the first shirt is away. They will need to spend 90 percent of their time out and about with their Airmen, away from their normal duties.

Landegent said when they are acting as the first shirt they will deal with unique challenges they’ve never encountered, but these situations will help them gain knowledge; and the command team and first sergeant council is always there to help when needed.

She said because these Airmen are stepping up and performing this additional duty, gaining vital experience, they will most likely be the Airmen who will one day wear the official first sergeant diamonds.

Col. Troy Daniels, 161 ARW commander agreed, “The [additional duty first sergeants] bring in new Airmen, with new energy, into the first shirt program. These Airmen who can step up when needed, will be our future first shirts.”

Tech. Sgt. Jason Sanborn, 161st communications flight, client systems noncommissioned officer in charge, said it is an honor to be chosen to perform this very important additional duty.

“Our culture at the wing is about the people, and this position elevates my ability to help serve the Airmen in my unit,” he said.

Col. Daniels said the first sergeant’s ability to serve the Airmen, find out what is going on in the unit and what issues need to be addressed, play a key role for commanders.

“When there is a strong relationship between the first shirt and the commander it can make a huge difference; not just with the Airmen, but also behind the scenes when decisions are being made,” said Daniels. “We are really excited to have these additional duty first sergeants on board, and I can’t wait to see what they bring and the differences they will make.”