Members of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., had the opportunity to learn the roles and responsibilities of a first sergeant during a First Sergeants Symposium here, Oct. 7-11, 2019.
First sergeants advise commanders on the readiness, health, morale, welfare, and quality of life of Airmen and families to ensure a mission-ready force. The First Sergeant Symposium, offered to members ranks E-6 through E-9 assigned to units across the installation, taught attendees legal processes, Airmen resources and leadership strategies.
“The symposium covers a wide range of topics,” said Master Sgt. Michael Harris, 355th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant. “We discuss security forces procedures, inspections and searches, domestic violence, authorized and unauthorized absences, death and command responsibility, administrative actions, promotions and demotions, administrative separations, manual for courts-martial, non-judicial punishment, and self-care. We also bring in many of the helping agencies to discuss resources and answer any questions the students may have.”
When a unit’s first sergeant, also known as a “shirt,” is temporarily out of the unit, the responsibilities must still be filled. Instead of taking a shirt from another unit to do double duty, attendees of the First Sergeant Symposium can temporarily fill the role.
“Performing duties as a first sergeant can be a very challenging, but rewarding experience,” Harris said. “When advising our commanders we need to look at every aspect so they can make the decision that is best for the Airman, unit, wing, and Air Force.”
Additionally, this allows members interested in becoming a first sergeant to learn what the role entails before officially applying for the duty position. Knowing how to handle each situation is vital for all those who fill the role of a first sergeant.
“Throughout the course we provide the students real-life scenarios to gauge how they would handle the situation and then discuss how it was actually handled,” Harris said. “The important piece being that there are more than one correct way to handle each situation.”
The First Sergeants Council at Davis-Monthan hosts the First Sergeant Symposium twice a year using a curriculum provided by the First Sergeant Academy through Air University, at Maxwell AFB, Ala.