Symposium prepares Misawa members for first sergeant roles

Symposium prepares Misawa members for first sergeant roles

by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Japan

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- A diamond centered on a chevron comes with a plethora of responsibilities and embodies the morale, discipline, duty, experience and knowledge within a unit.

First sergeants, commonly referred to as ‘Shirts,’ dedicate themselves to the needs of Airmen, including their health, morale, discipline and welfare. Attendees of the biannual First Sergeant Symposium learned what it takes to earn the diamond and to become a first sergeant at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Oct 16-20.

Misawa AB commanders nominated more than 25 participants to attend the course. Recommendations were based off those interested in pursuing the special duty in the future.

“We all walked in at the beginning of the course with a basic understanding of what first sergeants do; however, this allowed us to step behind the scenes and learn about the hard work and long hours they contribute day in and day out,” said Tech. Sgt. Jake Torell, 35th Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief.

Throughout the week, the attendees heard from a number of presenters who spoke about the personal and technical aspects of being a first sergeant. The course consisted of academics from the U.S. Air Force First Sergeant Academy to provide SNCOs with the knowledge to better serve commanders on issues impacting Airmen, covering myriad topics, ranging from family care programs to military law.

“The First Sergeant Academy provided guidance on the requirements and objectives of becoming a first segeant,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Caplado, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant. “Each block of training represents the different aspects of being an advisor to commanders on issues that impact Airmen in successfully accomplishing the Air Force mission.”

The purpose of events like this one is to not only teach additional duty first sergeants what it means to fill the role but also to share knowledge with those who might be interested in wearing a diamond in the future.

“We opened it up to technical sergeants who have lines numbers for master sergeant or are on the cusp of promoting in the next testing cycle,” said Caplado.

The course concluded with participants partaking in two interactive scenarios, testing the tools provided throughout the week. The scenarios included an individual having suicide ideations and a domestic violence incident involving a married couple. The first sergeants teamed up with first responders and the local theater to provide actors, ensuring the most realistic hands-on training.

“The hands-on scenarios helped me realize how many agencies are involved when something bad occurs,” said Master Sgt. Erik Bush 35th Maintenance Squadron aircraft ground equipment productions superintendent. “I have dealt with situations similar to what the shirts talked about, but no matter how prepared you think you are, there is no way to predict how you will react in the moment.”

Members agreed the seminar provided a good overview of what a first sergeant is responsible for on a day-to-day basis and reaffirmed their goal of becoming a first sergeant.

“The symposium was awesome,” said Bush. “This course was highly beneficial to me. I think any E-5 and above could benefit from the class because it gives a different perspective on how squadrons team together in a crisis and help an individual navigate through a negative situation.”

Caplado explained that being a “Shirt” is challenging, but the seminar provided the students with tools and resources to alleviate issues as they arise.

“This job is extremely unique,” Caplado said. “I would like the attendees to walk away with the confidence that they can handle a situation just based on the little bit of knowledge they received at this training. I want them to be comfortable with assuming the duty as the ‘under’ Shirt.”

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