By Master Sgt. Patricia F. Moran , 145th Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2014
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The blackberry vibrates and the familiar ring grows louder as you pick up the phone, realizing as you answer it in a daze that you are about to end your blissful sleep, that perfect dream...at 0200. Security Police from the base is on the phone. They're very sorry to disturb you (not really!), but they just picked up one of your troops on a drunk & disorderly charge. Feeling irritable you tell them that you'll be right there, and why, because you have a troop that no matter what, they need your help. That is just one of many sleepless nights and longer days that a First Sergeant, often referred to as the "first shirt", or "shirt", lives through as part of their duty to ensure the morale, welfare, safety and honorable conduct of all the enlisted members.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Kennedy knows this situation all too well. As First Sergeant Functional Area Manager for the U.S. Air National Guard he is responsible for the National Guard First Sergeant Program and all airmen appointed to that position. Kennedy traveled from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland to Charlotte, N.C. to meet with the 145th Airlift Wing's First Sergeants during the March Unit Training Assembly for the purpose of delivering news, professional training and to discuss future changes being made in the First Sergeant program.
He spoke with NCANG 1st Sergeants about integrity and the increasing responsibilities that are expected from a 1st Shirt.
If Non-Commissioned Officers are the backbone of the armed forces, then the First Sergeant is the heart and soul. No other enlisted person carries nearly the responsibility and authority of the First Sergeant. No other person in the squadron or company, including the commissioned officers, possesses the First Sergeant's breadth of experience, professional knowledge, or education. A First Sergeant MUST be a qualified expert in promotions, demotions, military law, civilian law, counseling, discipline, leave & passes, evaluations, inspections, public speaking, billeting, PCS moves, TDYs, pay problems and procedures, child and family support, bad checks, budgeting, loans, requisitions, dress and appearance, awards and decorations, unit history, parades, ceremonies, family advocacy, medical benefits and requirements, reenlistments, retirements, weight control, professional military education, ID card privileges, off limit areas, restrictions, etc. The First Sergeant is the primary liaison with the commander on all matters concerning the enlisted corps. He or she is the eyes and ears for the commander and the mouth for the enlisted force. The First Sergeant carries a cell phone with him or her 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and never complains when he/she is called out at any hour.
I AM A FIRST SERGEANT
First my job is people -- Every One is My Business. I dedicate my time and energy to their needs; their health, morale, discipline, and welfare. I grow in strength by strengthening my people. My job is done in faith; my people build faith.