In the Eyes of a First Sergeant
By Senior Airman Leon Bussey, 164th Airlift Wing
/ Published August 07, 2016
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug 7, 2016) -- "My job is people--everyone is my Business. I dedicate my time and energy to their needs; their health, morale, discipline and welfare." These words are part of a creed that is taken, and up held by some of the most selfless enlisted service members, the first sergeants.
To some, there is a mystery surrounding the men and women that have the diamond on their sleeves. Some may know them as the person that is always asking how their day is going, others may only know them as the regulations police; some just know them as the enlisted person with the diamond in their stripes that is part of the commander's entourage.
"My official duty is to give the commander a trained and prepared enlisted force to accomplish the mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Mathew Smith, who was the former 164th Airlift Wing first sergeant at Memphis Air National Guard Base, Memphis, Tenn.
When younger services members are asked about what they think a first sergeant is, or what their jobs are, the answers vary.
"When I think of first sergeants, the first thing I think of, their pretty much a voice that you can talk to, outside of your chain of command," said Senior Airman Christopher Fant a wing administration personalist with the 164th AW.
But, anytime a service member receives word that the first sergeant wants to speak with them, the expectation is that there is an issue or they have done something wrong.
"The first thing that comes to my mind, that there has to be an issue or something that you may be doing wrong and need to tighten up on," said Fant.
This belief is a common thought that most share about any first sergeant.
"It's like getting sent to the principal's office," said Senior Master Sgt. Lee Johnson, the 164th Civil Engineering Squadron first sergeant.
Johnson said that anytime that a service member hears the first sergeant asking for them, they always assume that it is for something wrong. But, after having a conversation with a first sergeant, many would be surprised that distributing punishment is the worst part of their job.
"Recognizing Airmen has to be the number 1 enjoyable thing about being a first sergeant, you know," said Smith.
Johnson said that when he first became the first sergeant for the 164th CES, he met with all the Airmen and non-commissioned officers in his area. During this meeting, he removed his ABU top and had everyone else do the same. For there, he explained that just because he wears the diamond of a first Sergeant, that doesn't make him any less human than they are.
"We're human," said Johnson.
"Sometimes you are going to need a pat on the back, sometimes a caring ear, you know, sometimes you are going to need a push to get you where you need to be in your career. First sergeants, you know, father figures, grandfather, brother, uncle, sister, mother, basically the first sergeant would be what you need at that moment," said Johnson.
Like it is written in their creed, "My job is people," the first sergeant is tasked with the job of being the guardian of the enlisted force, and it is a job they don't take lightly.
(Story by Air National Guard Senior Airman Leon Bussey, 164th Airlift Wing, Memphis, Tenn.)