960 CW hosts total-force additional-duty first sergeant symposium

  • Published
  • By Kristian Carter
  • 960 Cyberspace Wing

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, TX -- The 960th Cyberspace Wing First Sergeants’ Council organized and hosted a total-force additional-duty first sergeant symposium at the Robert D. Gaylor NCO Academy here, March 7-10.

The inaugural symposium offered training for 44 in-person and 11 virtual Reserve, Guard and active-duty Airmen who, as additional-duty first sergeants, backfill and assist assigned first sergeants.

Unlike assigned first sergeants, additional-duty first sergeants do not attend the Air Force First Sergeant Academy, but still require the training to serve military members in their assigned units.

Master Sgt. Shatasha L. Estes, 960th CW first sergeant and symposium organization team lead, said the lessons, templates and slides used to build the schedule for the symposium came from the First Sergeant Academy curriculum.

“Part of the curriculum is the diamond-wearing shirts who brief the academy slides,” said Estes. “It is also the various helping agencies briefing their programs and what they offer to take care of Airmen and their families.”

Estes said this method provides quality training in the compressed schedule.

The symposium consisted of 31 briefings, along with commanders’, chiefs’ and first sergeants’ panels, and periodic networking breaks for participants.

The additional-duty first sergeants also participated in an icebreaker dinner, a yoga session and volunteer community service landscaping work at the Lackland Fisher House.

The symposium’s coordinators said they wanted to hold a total-force focused event to develop well-rounded first sergeants and highlight the Reserve’s operational mission-partner role.

As event planning progressed, the coordinators recruited first sergeants from all three components to help with the training.

“We wanted to create a presence on base with the Reserve 433rd Airlift Wing and other organizations here at JBSA,” said Estes. “It started as a Reserve symposium and then morphed into a total-force event with Reserve, Guard and active duty members all involved.”

Several of the briefings were led by a team of active-duty and Reserve first sergeants. Estes said this enabled briefers to answer questions regarding a variety of issues, as service members and families from different components can have different types of challenges.

One of the participants, Tech. Sgt. Patricia Nentwich, 382nd Training Squadron medical laboratory apprentice instructor at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and additional-duty first sergeant, said this training helped her to better understand the role and provide support to the assigned first sergeant in her unit.

“I really think the knowledge of this program will help me support our first sergeant,” said Nentwich. “Being a first sergeant is a 24/7 gig, so having additional-duty first sergeants allows him to take time off. The first sergeant needs a break, too.”

Nentwich said some of the most beneficial information was about discipline and the non-judicial punishment process.

“Regardless of whether they did something wrong, at the end of the day, you want to make sure they are good,” she said.

Nentwich said the symposium helped her to identify the legal boundaries and the resources to appropriately take care of that person.

Symposium sessions covered a variety of topics. Many were about clear-cut procedures, while others, like mental health, counseling, and suicide awareness and prevention, focused on developing soft skills and encouraged participants to use empathy when working with people.

A highlight was the discussion about emotional intelligence, according to Nentwich.

“The briefers showed a piece of themselves,” she said. “That helped facilitate the program and enabled a deeper level of learning.”

Tech. Sgt. Alicia Brown, 959th Inpatient Services Squadron neonatal intensive care unit flight chief at San Antonio Military Medical Center and additional-duty first sergeant, said she would like to become a first sergeant if other career aspirations do not occur.

“I have had great shirts, and absent shirts,” said Brown. “Having the opportunity to help people is our duty as a shirt. It is imperative for first sergeants to want to be in the position.”