There can be times when personnel need more help than
their supervisors can offer, so the Air Force provides
First sergeants, also known as
“shirts,” hold a position granted to master sergeants and
above, and promote general health, discipline, and career
progression of all assigned personnel and their families.
According to Air Force Instruction 36-2113, The First Sergeant...
First sergeants primarily support the mission through interaction,
support and management of Airmen and families. They are responsible
for answering the needs of the unit 24 hours a day, seven days a
week and may be required to work long irregular hours. (U.S. Air
Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert - Sept. 7, 2016)
“We make sure we can get people the things they
need, like a little extra cash to fix a vehicle, or help
with budgeting,” said Master Sgt. Jose Ramon, the 35th
Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant.
shirts put together programs going beyond their normal duty
requirements to reach families as well.
program we use to help families is Operation Warmheart,”
said Master Sgt. Thomas Capaldo, the 35th Force Support
Squadron first sergeant. “The program is used for those who
need help and do not qualify for the Air Force Aid Society.
We will step in and help offset the cost of air fare because
sometimes there is a death in the family, and being at
Misawa AB, that can be costly on an individual.”
Ramon added in addition to being there for Airmen
themselves, they also offer a four-day leadership course,
Additional Duty First Sergeant Symposium, for those
interested in learning how the first shirts operate and
handle various situations.
The class includes
informational sessions on counseling, command
responsibility, the first sergeant's perspective on domestic
violence, and more.
Capaldo said that although the
shirts do other acts of kindness like handing out gift cards
for school supplies or popsicles to those working on a hot
day, they are sometimes seen as the “bad guys.”
“Sometimes there is a negative opinion toward shirts because
a lot of people are not comfortable with confrontation when
it comes to correction,” Ramon said. “So when the first
sergeant has to be direct with an individual, they take it
in the wrong way. The reality is, it has always been to help
somebody and in order to start fixing something, we have to
first identify the problem.”
Ramon explained an
instance where correction from a shirt is sometimes
necessary to better an Airman.
“There was an Airman
at my last base who was a superstar Airman, but she started
hanging out with the wrong people and ended up getting a
DUI,” recalled Ramon.
He added it took a long time
to get her to trust people, but they eventually broke down
the wall she put up. The shirts started talking more and
eventually it led to them helping her and her family.
Ramon said even he had hard times early in his career
and his shirt took the time to look out for him, which
inspired him to take up the position himself.
get to see somebody when they are broken, then help them
pick themselves up,” said Ramon. “Afterward you get to see
them pick other people up. That is probably the best part of
being a shirt.”
Capaldo said at the end of the day
their role is to help Airmen and families, so they can be
prepared to execute the mission. As with many leaders across
the base, their view is that if units take care of their
people, their people will take care of the mission.
“We are not always involved with people on the microscopic
level,” said Ramon. “But we are definitely there to make
sure they are OK and they are in the right mindset to
perform their job.”
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert
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