by Airman 1st Class Alexander Guerrero
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
1/3/2014 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Some
Airmen need help or direction that is beyond what their immediate
supervisor can provide. When a situation like this arises, there is one
person in particular an Airman can go to.
The first sergeant, also referred to as "first shirt", wears a diamond in the middle of their rank for a reason.
"Typically, shirts are pretty experienced and tend to be pretty solid
senior NCOs with a lot of experience," said Master Sgt. Brandy Wess, 7th
Operations Group first sergeant. "Our job is the health, morale and
welfare of our people, so anytime someone is having a problem and their
first line supervisor doesn't know how to help, the first sergeant
First sergeants can assist Airmen in a number of ways. They usually have
many resources available to them acquired through their years of
networking as well as sound advice built up during their life and
career. These can be the biggest assets to an Airman needing assistance.
"First sergeants can spend the whole day talking with people, building
rapport with different agencies getting to know who point of contacts
and subject matter experts are so that when an Airman comes to us with
an issue, we know exactly who can help them, so then we can refer them
appropriately," Wess said.
As Airmen and wingmen, we should all be looking out for and helping one
another, but first sergeants specialize in this. There are certain
character traits that separate first shirts from other senior NCOs.
"You have to be very organized because the part of our job that a lot of
people don't see is the administrative side," Wess said. "On top of
that, you still have to be passionate and empathetic when someone comes
to you with an issue. Sometimes even if I think its minor, to that
person it's not. To that person it's the biggest thing bugging them and
distracting them from completing the mission."
Airmen aren't the only ones who benefit from a first sergeant's
guidance. Even spouses can go to the shirts should they have an issue
that needs addressing.
"In my unit, spouses get an equal amount of help as our Airmen, and if a
spouse has a problem, I'm going to do everything I can to help," Wess
said. "One way we do that is to stay engaged with our Key Spouse
Program. Whenever my squadrons have key spouse programs, I like to
attend and mingle with the spouses. It's important that I get to know
them so that they know I'm there to help."
When asked, many shirts will say their job is their people. Between
Airmen and their spouses, first sergeants are the cornerstones of a
unit, providing relief for any problems that are presented to them. This
help is for anybody, not just those assigned to their particular
unit. A first sergeant's advice is available to anyone looking for it.
"My personal motto is, 'I'm everyone's first sergeant,'" Wess said. "If I
come across an Airman having a hard time, I don't care where that
Airman works, if they are in my unit or what rank they are wearing, I'm
going to stop and ask if they are okay. I don't mind asking the hard
personal questions that may dig into their business a little bit because
if it helps them out, then it's worth it."