ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – Amongst first-term Airmen, it is not uncommon for first sergeants to be looked upon as those one only meets when things go wrong. The perception seems to be that their only duty is helping to enforce disciplinary measures, but this could not be further from the truth, since the responsibilities of those who carry the diamond goes so far beyond that.
To help better understand what the first sergeant duty is all about, Master Sgt. Patrick Hill, 28th Medical Group first sergeant, volunteered to be shadowed for a day, sharing a glimpse of his daily responsibilities.
Master Sgt. Patrick Hill, 28th Medical Group first sergeant, updates paperwork and responds to base personnel inquiries at his workstation at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Nov. 13, 2014. As a first sergeant, much of each day is dedicated to staying informed and properly responding to Airmen's needs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio)
“The first sergeant's creed, ‘Everyone is my business,' really hits the target on what my job is all about,” said Hill. “As a first sergeant, I dedicate my time and energy to Airmen's needs – be it health, morale, [or] discipline and welfare.”
According to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, a first sergeant is a special senior noncommissioned officer position. A first sergeant is one who is there to provide a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality-of-life issues within his or her organization.
“When an Airman pulls me aside and asks, ‘Hey shirt, you got a minute?,' then no matter what taskings I have at that time, my number one priority will be [that] Airman,” said Hill.
Hill added that, he has learned to understand that taking time to listen is the most important thing a first sergeant can do when interacting with Airmen and their families.
In addition to being there for Airmen, first sergeants work closely with the command chief master sergeant to prepare the organization's enlisted force to best execute all assigned tasks. Commanders are presented with the advice of both the chief enlisted manager and first sergeant, which helps maintain a sound decision making process.
“I have the responsibility of being the eyes, ears and mouth for the commander,” said Hill. “A big part of my job is making sure I brief leadership on their Airmen and [what's] going on within their units.”
From First Sergeant Council meetings to unit executive leadership meetings, Hill attends to do what he can to help fellow first sergeants, his leadership and, most importantly, his Airmen.
“My job relies heavily on trust,” said Hill. “Even if an Airman is in my office ... for a disciplinary reason, they should trust that I will do all I can to help them remedy the situation or, if anything, that I will guide them to what will be the right decision for them. If not, then the whole unit would eventually crumble.”
Being a first sergeant also means taking on a 24/7 duty.
“As a first sergeant I am on call 24 hours, 7 days a week,” said Hill. “My duty day doesn't begin and end at a specific time; it is around the clock, non-stop. Our on-call phone is with us all the time, everywhere we go, making ourselves available for Airmen at any moment.”
From attending meetings and briefing leadership to visiting with and assisting Airmen, first sergeants are helping lead the way.
“Coming from a Military Training Instructor position to a first sergeant has taught me a lot,” said Hill. “I've learned to adapt and be more flexible with others as well as being more aware of people - sometimes people don't want to ask for help, so I've learned to visit with my Airmen and notice when I need to step in.”
Although first sergeant duties do entail enforcing disciplinary measures on Airmen, Hill says his primary job is making sure Airmen and leadership in his unit are properly taken care of so that the mission can succeed.
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Anania Tekurio
Provided through DVIDS
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