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Shirts' symposium most significant, gathers hundreds

First Sergeant Symposium

Air Force First Sergeants attend a panel discussion on May 23, 2018, during the First Sergeant Symposium at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, outside Knoxville Tennessee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

First Sergeant Symposium

U.S. Air Force First Sergeants answer questions from a chiefs’ panel in the Spruance Hall auditorium on May 23, 2018, during the First Sergeant Symposium at the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

First Sergeant Symposium

Chief Master Sgt. Jimmie Jones takes part in a chiefs’ panel for U.S. Air Force First Sergeants, May 23, 2018, during the First Sergeant Symposium at the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee. Chief Jones is assigned to the 164th Airlift Wing in Memphis. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

First Sergeant Symposium

Senior Master Sgt. Michael Tullock, 134th Air Refueling Wing first sergeant, fields questions during a panel discussion in the Spruance Hall auditorium, May 23, 2018, at the First Sergeant Symposium on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

First Sergeant Symposium

Air Force First Sergeants attend a panel discussion in the Spruance Hall auditorium, May 23, 2018, during the First Sergeant Symposium at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

First Sergeant Symposium

First Sergeants from across the Air Force gathered at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee, this week for a sypmposium. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Jerry Harlan)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. --

The Air National Guard’s training and education center hosted the largest gathering of Air Force First Sergeants in recent memory when at least 217 of them met on the campus in East Tennessee this week for a continuing education symposium.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center worked with the Tennessee Air National Guard to help facilitate the symposium of enlisted force leaders – who are considered the “lynchpin and discipline” of a unit.

“First Sergeants are required an amount of continuing education, so this fulfills that requirement as well as allows for a good amount of networking,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Krausz, the training center’s first sergeant, who helped the state’s Airmen and others put it on. 

The four days of professional development lectures, panels, and subject expertise on the workings of First Sergeant roles and current matters included an audience of regular Air Force, Guard, and Reserve Airmen.

Commonly called a “first shirt” or “shirt,” a First Sergeant in the Air Force is a typical duty for career-minded and experienced senior noncommissioned officers. They oversee the morale, welfare, and conduct of enlisted Airmen in a given unit. That role includes a plethora of responsibilities, from sit-down discussions and direct support for individuals to managing enlisted situations and requirements for senior leadership. The duty also requires existing knowledge on any number of service-related actions, issues, regulations, and programs.

The gathering was the symposium's fourth iteration, which Tennessee Air Guard Chief Master Sgt. Matthew R. Smith, a former First Sergeant, said that his state began by initially joining for some training in 2014. Last year’s event in Nashville included Airmen from across the National Guard, and this year’s event embodied the total Air Force, including some First Sergeants assigned to operations in Japan and South Korea.

The symposium included a dinner in the 134th Air Refueling Wing’s hanger with a guest speaker – the outgoing U.S. Air Force First Sergeant Academy Commandant, Chief Master Sgt. Danny Doucette.

Chief Smith said that prior First Sergeants typically continue to support and develop the field after completing their duties. His attendance was one example. Retired Air National Guard Command Chief, Chief Master Sergeant James W. Hotaling, who spoke with the group earlier this week, is another example of that support.

“Once a First Sergeant, always a First Sergeant,” Chief Smith said. “It’s the best job that an enlisted person could have, in my opinion.”

Within the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, coordinators pointed out TEC’s no-cost lodging, as well as its new classrooms, Wi-Fi, and inclusive services as factors to the symposium’s location.

You can watch their promotional video at: