39th ABW First Sgt.'s put future diamonds under pressure

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Winn
  • 39th Air Base Wing

The First Sergeants of the 39th Air Base Wing held their biannual First Sergeants Symposium with a select group of noncommissioned officers at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, August 1-5, 2022. Though the week-long symposium lends insightful guidance, the 39th ABW First Sgt.’s incorporated real-world scenarios to enhance classroom discussions, innovating the way they teach their students.

Three days of interactive scenarios began after opening remarks from Col. Calvin Powell, 39th ABW commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Justin Stoltzfus, 39th ABW command chief. The symposium ended with a graduation ceremony and closing remarks from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa Command First Sergeant.

“For many of the First Sergeants, the symposiums we attended were just discussions but no real application,” said Master Sgt. David Close, First Sergeant assigned to the 39th Force Support Squadron.

The 39th ABW First Sgt.’s teamed with various senior enlisted leaders across Incirlik AB to incorporate real-world scenarios after class hours, adding hands-on application to their curriculum.

“This is our second time doing this here at Incirlik, but this symposium we wanted to include our Chiefs because at the end of the day we all have been through something as leaders,” explained Close. “These scenarios allow for a controlled environment, and to get insight on how [they] react to an unknown situation and be less nervous when they do respond.”

The students were tasked with scenarios that reflected situations the First Sgt.’s and SEL’s experienced in the past, giving them insight on what they might encounter during a crisis.

“All of our scenarios are designed based on real situations we have had in our past and foundationally teach the students four things: support of the member and their families, how and when to get helping agencies involved, safety of all involved, and what are the 2nd and 3rd order effect,” Close added. “Since we do not have the time to get everyone through every scenario, we recap the next day to guide these types of discussions.”

Since First Sgt.’s and SEL’s support Airmen in a multitude of ways, including the SEL’s throughout the symposium reinforced the importance of their relationship and how closely they work together to ensure they are supporting their Airmen to the highest degree.

Chief Master Sgt. Anna Davis, Senior Enlisted Leader assigned to the 39th Wing Staff Agency, stated, “Having a cohesive relationship between an SEL and Shirt is imperative in not only decision making, but advising the Commander. There are plenty of incidents where SEL's and Shirts will disagree behind closed doors, but when that door opens, all that matters is they are in lock step. The culture of the unit depends on it.”

The incorporation of real-world scenarios is a way that the First Sgt.’s and SEL’s of
Incirlik AB are innovating training and development, as well as making effective changes for the future of the Air Force.

“To date, Incirlik is the USAFE's leader for providing hands-on development amongst First Sergeants and SELs,” said Chief Master Sgt. Derrick Sherrod, USAFE-AFAFIRCA Command First Sgt. “Scenarios offer realistic assessments of real-life situations, offering SELs the opportunity to observe in real-time what is heard, seen, or read on the blotter. These experiences shed light on the complexity of the First Sergeants intricate role of caring for our most valuable resource -- the Warfighter.”

These scenarios, in addition to the classroom discussions, align with the initiatives set forth by Sherrod in developing future First Sgt.’s and fostering growth and development within the First Sgt., SEL, and commander relationship.

“As USAFE’s Command First Sergeant my main initiatives are to provide care, thorough advice, and offer mentorship to Wing Commanders and Command Chiefs,” said Sherrod. “I offer comprehensive guidance to First Sergeants on their development, roles within TRIAD, and strategic purpose regarding the significance of relationships between the Senior Enlisted Leader’s and First Sergeant’s.”

Through the development of the First Sgt. and SEL relationship, the ability to understand the complexities of their duties is important when working closely together.

“Communication is the key component for fostering development between the SELs and First Sergeants,” explained Sherrod. “The First Sergeants ability to communicate thoroughly, yet concisely with the SEL as he/she does with the Commander is paramount in allowing the SEL to understand the complexities of the time constraints and hardships that are inherent to the First Sergeant role.”

First Sgt.’s dedicate themselves to the needs of Airmen to include their health, morale, and welfare. The purpose of this event is to teach additional duty first sergeants what it means to fill the role and share knowledge with those who might be interested in wearing a diamond of their own one day.