Middletown, Pa. --
It’s a phrase that comes to mind when I hear “first sergeant.” What does it truly mean to be a servant leader, a first sergeant?
After a two-day, additional duty first sergeant seminar, hosted by the 193rd Special Operations Wing First Sergeant Council, Middletown, Pennsylvania, May 1-2, 2018, more Airmen understood and are better equipped to become, just that, a servant leader.
Tech. Sgt. Jordan Sherman, 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron additional duty first sergeant, said he learned a first sergeant is truly a selfless person.
Sherman was one of approximately 26 Airmen from the three Pennsylvania Air National Guard wings who attended the seminar. The Airmen attended for various reasons, some with the goal of becoming first sergeants someday, others to learn more about what a first sergeant does.
Air Force First Sergeant Academy Instructors Senior Master Sgts. Jan Medina and Luther Holsonback travelled from the FSA in Alabama to Pennsylvania to teach the seminar with the help of 193rd SOW first sergeants.
Normally people associate discipline with first sergeant.
“It’s way more than that," said Master Sgt. Jessica Barder, 193rd Special Operations Squadron aviation resource manager. “It’s about making sure our members and their families are taken care of - whether it be mentally, physically, or financially - while still getting the mission done in a safe and effective manner.”
Barder signed up for the seminar as an opportunity to go outside of her comfort zone while supporting members of her organization.
The seminar not only helped Airmen learn the role of a first sergeant, it also made them self reflect.
“It opened my eyes on how to be nonjudgmental towards others and how to work on improving myself on a daily basis as not just an Airman, but also as a leader, supervisor and as a mom," said Tech. Sgt. Billie Bayhart, 193rd Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron clothing issue specialist.
Barder echoed the importance of being mindful of our personal biases, to not allow them to interfere with our mission as a first sergeant.
As first sergeants, our motto is “Mission First, Airmen Always." If you don’t take care of Airmen, you can’t have a mission-ready force.
“It is our job to peel through the many layers of the onion, to find out what could be possibly causing issues for our members,” said Barder.
As a first sergeant, I know that to be true. What works for one situation or Airman won’t necessarily work for a different situation or a different Airman. Things are not always black and white, and there are not always cookie-cutter solutions.
Hearing the gray, hearing stories from the instructors and the first sergeants in the room, several Airmen found it to be extremely helpful.
Bayhart said, “Hearing all of the first sergeants stories and experiences gave me the best understanding of what to expect and how to react."
The “Backbone of the Armed Forces," published by National Defense University Press, says that noncommissioned officers are servant-leaders; that “they embody and enforce high standards and live by an austere code of conduct, maintaining an ethical and moral high ground and unwavering dedication to duty.
Using the stories, experiences and tools from the seminar, NCOs across the Commonwealth are now better equipped to serve and lead Airmen of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.