Role of the first sergeant

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joel Bieberle
  • 76th Space Control Squadron commander
I have been in command for a very short period of time, but in this short period I have realized the absolute importance of the first sergeant to the well being of the squadron.

The day after I started running the squadron I was in the shirt's office asking questions, and there have been very few days gone by that I haven't called, emailed or talked face to face with the shirt. In my opinion, the shirt is the glue between the officer and enlisted corps and is vital to the good health and discipline of the unit.

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 assists the commander in preparation and execution of unit training and information programs, attends staff meetings, represents the commander at base meetings and councils and helps conduct tours through unit areas.

If that is not enough, the first sergeant also supervises administrative actions directed by the commander, coordinates with supervisors of enlisted personnel to schedule unit functions, duties, leave, passes and other absences from duty, performs quality force review and ensures timely processing of performance reports, awards, decorations, promotions, demotions and disciplinary actions. Our shirt, as do all shirts, goes above and beyond the duties listed in the job description on a daily basis to ensure squadron members are being taken care of so they can accomplish the mission.

Our squadron is a deployable unit which is inherently difficult on the members and their families. The unit members get a lot of satisfaction out of deploying and supporting combatant commanders around the world but being away from home for extended periods of time is never easy on the members, especially the families. The first sergeant maintains close contact with the spouses, which gives the deployed members peace of mind that someone back home is looking after their loved ones.

The job of a first sergeant is not always about caring for troops, there are times when they have to ensure good discipline is in order. We are blessed to have good troops in our squadron but there have been some minor disciplinary actions that I have had to administer since taking command. The first sergeant has always been there to provide advice and counsel to me and then to the member after the disciplinary action is administered.

Our shirt upholds standards and is a professional that enforces standards for not only the enlisted members but the officer corps as well. Recently I was heating a bowl of oatmeal in the squadron kitchen. It was a cold morning and I had slipped my hands in my pockets to warm them. The shirt walked by me and looked at my hands in my pockets and shook her head. Later that day I thanked her for what she did because I knew she is sets the example for everyone to follow.

Thank you Master Sgt. LaTonya Thompson for everything you - and first sergeants everywhere - have done for the squadron and our Air Force. You have touched and influenced so many lives in our unit and are an integral part in the mission success.