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Symposium sheds light on diamond duties

Air Force leaders address first sergeants

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, right, and Chief Master Sgt. Manuel Piñeiro, Air Force first sergeant special duty manager, listen as an Airman asks a question during a First Sergeant Symposium at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Sept. 6. The four-day symposium was open to technical and master sergeants from the New England and New York areas who are interested in becoming first sergeants, a special duty charged with promoting the health, morale and welfare of the enlisted force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Senior noncommissioned officers from the 66th Air Base Group and the 319th Recruiting Squadron offered an intimate look at the role first sergeants play in the squadron during the 2019 First Sergeants Symposium at the Minuteman Commons here Sept. 3 through 6.


The four-day course was open to technical and master sergeants as well as company grade officers from the New England and New York areas who are interested in becoming an additional duty first sergeant, a special duty that is denoted on the rank insignia by a diamond.


“Anything that life can throw at you falls under the diamond in the first sergeant realm,” said Master Sgt. Sara Wright, 319th RCS first sergeant and symposium coordinator. “That’s why our job exists, because if [the Airmen are] not whole and not okay, we can’t make the mission happen.”


The course featured curriculum material from the First Sergeants Academy and installation organizations and information from current diamond-wearers.  


The primary duty of a first sergeant is to promote the health, morale and welfare of the enlisted force. They also advise the commander in maintaining standards, unit training and programs, and supervise the care of unit dorms and grounds.


“This training covered anything and everything from inspections to legal issues to promotions and demotions,” said Master Sgt. Ryan Francois, 66 ABG and Security Forces first sergeant and symposium coordinator. “We just wanted to be able to start those discussions, and hopefully give people some different perspectives.”


The symposium served as an introduction to being a first sergeant, and gave participants a chance to see if it’s a duty they would like to pursue in their own career.


 “I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day as a [first sergeant], said Master Sgt. Jessica LaBrie, 66th Medical Squadron first sergeant and symposium coordinator. “Some days are quiet and other days it’s like my office has a revolving door. When that phone rings, we have to be ready for anything.”


First sergeants are on-call 24/7 and each call can present a different scenario or challenge.


“Everyone has different strengths, and some folks here may realize this isn’t for them,” said Francois. “There are some really sensitive areas and it can get dark, but when you get someone through those dark times, it’s the most rewarding feeling there is.”


The Hanscom first sergeants hope to have pulled back the curtain and revealed the team and network behind the mission, but encourage anyone interested in pursuing the diamond to stay empathetic, humble and ready.


“Being a first sergeant changes your whole view on the mission,” said Francois. “It puts you in a position to really make a change.”