Shine bright like a diamond

First sergeant (U.S. Air Force graphic)

In the Air Force, first sergeant is not a rank, but a special duty that is performed by senior NCOs who are responsible for the morale, welfare and conduct of all enlisted members in a squadron. The first sergeant is also the chief advisor to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- When Airmen start their journey in the Air Force, military training instructors and military training leaders lay the groundwork for their success. Continuing said journey, Airmen are guided and coached throughout their career by role models and leaders called first sergeants.

In the Air Force, first sergeant is not a rank, but a special duty that is performed by senior NCOs who are responsible for the morale, welfare and conduct of all enlisted members in a squadron. The first sergeant is also the chief advisor to the squadron commander concerning the enlisted force.

"Outside of the official duties listed in Air Force Instruction 36-2113, The First Sergeant, I believe one of my primary duties is to help Airmen gain their resiliency," said Senior Master Sgt. Hamp Lee, 315th Training Squadron first sergeant.

Not only does a first sergeant boost morale for the enlisted force, but he also has a huge impact on the community outside of the Air Force environment. An Airman recalls volunteering at a soup kitchen with Master Sgt. Chris Howard, former 17th Communications Squadron first sergeant.

"He brought together students, permanent party members and even civilians; all to help out the needy in the local community," said Senior Airman Patrick Eichamer, 17th Medical Group health services journeyman. "We fed over 500 people that day. The looks on their faces that we fed were well worth it."

To Senior Master Sgt. James Baxley, 17th Medical Group first sergeant, getting a diamond on the chevron isn't the only benefit of being a first sergeant.

"What could be a bigger benefit than making sure our people are taken care of as well as the Air Force?" he said. "As a first sergeant, you get to move to different squadrons and get a different perspective on how the Air Force works from different units. You are also involved with every aspect of leadership, and the lessons learned daily are immeasurable."

Like most duties, with great benefit comes great sacrifice.

"First sergeants are accountable to respond to the needs of unit members 24 hours a day, seven days a week and may at times, be required to work long and irregular hours, travel extensively to and from mission destinations," added Baxley.

Becoming a first sergeant might be the best thing for an Airman, as it can change a lot about them for the better.

"In my opinion, being a first sergeant for the last six years has not only broadened my expertise for military issues and will assist me when I return to my previous Air Force specialty, but it has made me a better husband, father and person as well," said the first sergeant.

So how does one become a first sergeant?

Master sergeant and master sergeant selects may become first sergeants. However, master sergeant selects must be master sergeants by the time they attend the First Sergeant Academy. The application process now runs through the Development Special Duty nomination and selection process.

For more about how to become a first sergeant, visit myPers and search for Developmental Special Duty Nomination & Selection Process.