Every hand went up: Maxwell holds first sergeant symposium

by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

2/26/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Maxwell Air Force Base held a first sergeant symposium at the U. S. Air Force First Sergeant Academy on Gunter Annex, Feb. 18-21.

Active duty service members who have the additional duty of being a "shirt" attended various briefings, enhancing their ability to serve in their roles.

"The overall goal of the symposium was to start grooming the Air Force's next first sergeants, and share some insight on what it's like being a shirt at Maxwell-Gunter," said Master Sgt. Patrick Acre, 42nd Security Forces Squadron's first sergeant. "The first sergeants (who led the symposium) gave the students a few tools to take back to their work centers, as well as sharing some of their experiences with them. This symposium provided current additional duty shirts the tools and knowledge to operate in that role within their specific units, currently or in the future."

Senior noncommissioned officers graduate as first sergeants following the academy's six-week program. However, senior NCOs filling this role as an additional duty received a crash course on the material at the symposium.

"There is a ton of information jammed packed into a four-day curriculum," said Master Sgt. Thomas Weir, headquarters Air University first sergeant. "Topics range from a wide variety of matters that a first sergeant will encounter while serving in that seat. Knowing these processes, and who to contact, is not only beneficial to shirts, but all NCOs and senior NCOs."

While the shirt's role in domestic violence, writing Articles 15 and administrative separations were reviewed and explained, not everything about being a first sergeant deals with discipline.

"For the most part, first sergeants are looked at as the disciplinarian or 'hammer' of the unit," said Acre, who helped facilitated the symposium. "We also spend a lot of our time helping Airmen and their families. There is a misnomer that first sergeants are completely consumed with disciplinary actions, when the reality is, that is only a portion of what is in our 'job jar.' The intent, purpose and vision of the first sergeant should always be the liaison between the enlisted members in a unit, and the commander. I believe that the narrative that should be voiced by all shirts is, 'The intense desire to get it right, on-time and every time.'"

Overall, the symposium proved helpful to attendees.

"I feel the course was very beneficial. There were many good tools that I can add to my toolbox and bring back to my unit," said Master Sgt. Franco Johnson, additional duty first sergeant for the 22nd Training Squadron at Officer Training School. "On the first day, we were asked, 'How many of you want to be a first sergeant?' and many hands went up. By the end of the week, when we were asked again, every hand in the room went up."