The Glue That Binds

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryaunte Perkins
  • 186th Air Refueling Wing

Keyfield Air National Guard Base, Miss.— Joining the military is often the first time many young adults are away from home, learning to live on their own and adjust to a new culture. Although there are plenty of drill sergeants, military training instructors and instructors for military career fields to assist in the beginning there is an additional resource available to help guide airman throughout their careers regardless of rank, age or career field. In the Air Force, the first sergeant or first shirt is a special duty designation tasked with being a servant, leader, caretaker and disciplinarian all rolled in one.

According to Air Force enlisted job descriptions and qualifications, the first sergeant advises the commander on a wide range of topics including health, esprit de corps, discipline, mentoring, well-being, career progression, professional development, and recognition of all assigned enlisted members. The first sergeant also has a host of other duties including, supervising administrative actions directed by the commander, ensuring timely processing of performance reports, awards, decorations, promotions, demotions and disciplinary actions.

These duties and responsibilities often cause stigmas attached to the role of first sergeants as disciplinarians and rule enforcers. Senior Master Sgt. John Mcalister, wing first sergeant with the 186th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) Meridian, Mississippi, is working to change the stigma and helping airmen succeed in the process.

“As a young airman my thought process was when you had to do anything with the first sergeant it was like something disciplinary or you were in trouble and I want to try to break that characteristic by having our first sergeants out there with our people.” Said Sergeant Mcalister. I think one of the most important things for us besides taking care of our airmen is just being that liaison between airman and commanders so that we can bridge the gap and focus in on those small details that impact our airmen individually.”

The 186th ARW boasts 11 first sergeant positions, of those, 8 positions are currently filled with a diverse team. Incumbent first sergeants are model examples for airman to follow and serve as resources for their needs, both personally and professionally.

“We are like google, when you type something in the search engine and you get a butt load of resources, that’s what a first sergeant is. If you need mental health, I know exactly who you need to talk to. If you need financial guidance you can talk to me or I can link you with a financial advisor. No matter who you need, I know who they are and where to find them, said Master Sgt Randall Miller, a first sergeant with the 186 ARW. “We’re all about coming together with resources for our airman so that they can have a prosperous career and life inside and outside of the military.”