by Tech. Sgt. Richard Gonzales
419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2/12/2013 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Early
in his career, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Bellerose saw a first sergeant
fix a problem others said couldn't be solved. Bellerose, a security
forces patrolman at the time, was working at a base air show and someone
told him there weren't enough box lunches for him and his team, he
recalled. A first sergeant overheard the conversation and 45 minutes
later Bellerose and his team had food. That small act of kindness from a
random first shirt set the path for his Air Force career, he said.
Two decades and a dozen assignments later, Bellerose is Air Force
Reserve Command's first sergeant functional manager. He mentors 509
first sergeants and advises Reserve leaders on how best to use those
Airmen. Bellarose will speak here Friday during Team Hill's Chiefs
Recognition Ceremony at The Landing. Prior to his speaking, I sat down
with him to discuss the role of first sergeants.
Is being a first sergeant tough?
It is the toughest job ever for an enlisted Airman. You see the good,
bad and ugly of a unit. But it's also very rewarding. First sergeants
take care of Airmen in the shadow of the mission. If a first sergeant is
doing a job well, the unit is going to succeed, and we see that on unit
climate assessments. If a first sergeant has good ratings on a climate
assessment, the unit is most likely excelling in its mission.
So, what's the benefit for Airmen to become first sergeants?
Well, we go from being operational leaders as supervisors to strategic
leaders as first sergeants. First sergeants get incredible leadership
development when stepping out of their career fields. We see people go
back to their units after taking off their diamond, and a lot of them
end up taking on larger responsibility. Nothing else offers the
leadership opportunity and development you get from being a first
sergeant. If you ask any first sergeant to take off his or her diamond
and go back to their old career field, none of them wants to leave.
What do you do to help shirts become better leaders?
What I really like to do is get a new first sergeant and take them away
from what they know. For example, I want to take a first sergeant with
background in the mission support group and put them in the maintenance
group, so they can learn a whole new culture in their wing. And a few
years later, move them to operations or medical. So when they go back to
their unit, they're a senior NCO with experience in several distinct
cultures, which increases their ability to lead and understand the
What skills help a Reserve first sergeant succeed?
A first sergeant's job isn't done at the end of a UTA, so networking is a
huge piece of being a first sergeant. If things go wrong, you need a
good network to get things done in a timely manner, especially when you
only see your Airmen one weekend a month. Family problems, marital
problems and financial issues are the kind of things that come up, and a
first sergeant needs to be able to know how to quickly help their