By Master Sgt. Eric Pelican
19th Comptroller Squadron
Have you ever sat in your unit wondering, “Who can I talk to about this issue, or how is my unit allowing this to happen?”
Ever thought to yourself, “I would never handle an issue that way”?
Well, I can recall being that person a time or two. It wasn’t until I actually tried to be part of the solution, approached my first sergeant about an issue and heard him respond, “I’m working it,” did I realize, “wow, they really do know what is going on in the unit.”
I was shocked to know that my first sergeant was way more involved behind the scenes than I would’ve imagined. It reminded me of how investigators work. It inspired me, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a first sergeant!
A first sergeant is a pivotal member in the unit and is engaged with everything their unit commander is faced with, preventing issues before they become life changing.
Depending on your perspective, you may feel like first sergeants only address discipline issues, but that’s a small piece. They are constantly advocating on your behalf when it comes to quality of life, health and morale issues, and recognition opportunities.
Not everyone receives the opportunity to become a first sergeant. And it is not a job that’s taken lightly. Training is required before someone can wear the diamond, because with that comes a lot of responsibility.
The First Sergeant Academy does an awesome job of preparing future diamonds for their duty. The academy hosts a four-week distance learning course and a two-week, in residence course at Gunter Annex, Ala. All classes are of the total force method which really expands your knowledge base because of the vast experience levels across different branches of service.
What makes a good first sergeant?
I remember being deployed when rumors began to circulate about changes to our return date. That rumor quickly made its way back to the base, and families began to get worried. As you could imagine, the phone calls home became very uneasy and almost dreadful.
My family members had no idea how to handle this news, as I was sustaining the war-fighter mindset and not divulging any information. As expected, this did not put my family at ease in the slightest. Finally, one day, I told my supervisor about the situation, and he mentioned contacting the first sergeant.
My initial thought was, what is he going to do? But I did it anyway. A week later I was shocked to find out my first sergeant and his wife went to comfort my family in my absence, and it made a world of difference.
To this day, I believe his actions saved my career and family from being destroyed. He was able to provide a side of the military that I had not seen or needed before and that was that families matter. To me, he is the best first sergeant I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. I aspire to leave that impression with the Airmen and families I have come to know as a first sergeant.
Your perceptions of the first sergeant or what makes a good one will vary. Beneath their exterior, they are truly a group of people that care about you.
This year the Air Force saw me as a candidate for this extraordinary duty and I earned my diamond. I can only hope to have the same lasting impact in an Airman’s life as my past first sergeant had in mine. I am proud to be a DIAMOND!