First Sergeant Symposium: becoming a Holloman diamond

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Ferrari
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

The Holloman 1st Sergeants Council hosted a first sergeant's symposium April 29 - May 3.

Forty-five senior noncommissioned officers and NCOs from all areas of Holloman AFB attended the event to get a glimpse into the life and responsibilities of a first sergeant, also known as “First Shirts.” The first sergeant serves as the primary advisor to the commander on the health, morale, welfare, quality of life, and preparedness of Airmen and families to help ensure a mission-ready force.

The First Sergeant Symposium is a biannual event that edifies SNCOs and NCOs who are interested in becoming a first sergeant. The symposium serves as a platform for those to discuss a wide range of topics relevant to their roles, including personnel management, mentorship and professional development. The event also brought numerous guest speakers to share their unique perspectives on key issues the Air Force faces and how they impact the enlisted force.

Diamond-wearing first sergeants actively engage with attendees throughout the symposium to educate, support and share personal experiences and provide resources to those potentially interested in adding a diamond to their rank insignia.

“I love the function of caring for the Air Force’s greatest asset, which is the people,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Tiawanna Dunn, 49th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant. “Taking care of Airmen builds trust, loyalty and commitment to each other, leadership teams and the nation. Knowing there is an entity that cares makes a difference.”

During the symposium, participants engage in workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities designed to foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. The unpredictable nature of being a first shirt addresses situations they may be called out on.

“A lot is thrown at you during this training,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shane Russell, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Unit section NCO in charge. “I've learned to approach circumstances differently and to reconsider my methods because some things that may work for some people don't work for others and this training has allowed me to be cognizant of that fact.”

The symposium provides a forum for First Sergeants to address challenges, exchange ideas and strengthen their professional relationships with peers. By sharing their experiences and lessons learned, attendees can better support their Airmen, build cohesive teams and enhance overall unit effectiveness.

The motivation for becoming a First Sergeant varies from person to person, and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cecille Finch, 635th Materiel Maintenance Support Squadron section chief, is fueled to become a shirt due to her own past experience.

“I want to expose my blind spots to become a better supervisor, a better senior enlisted leader and make sure I’m taking care of my people and doing right by them,” said Finch. “I had a shirt at my last assignment that helped me through a life-changing event which led me to a pivotal moment of me wanting to pay it forward. The care and love from my shirt and his family inspired me to support others going through tough times.”

The Holloman First Sergeant Symposium plays a crucial role in supporting the development and empowerment of First Sergeant’s throughout the Air Force, ensuring they are well-equipped to lead, inspire and support the Airmen under their charge.

“The fight is right at our doorstep when we consider our contested environment and our near-peer adversaries,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Taylor, Air Education Training Command command first sergeant and special guest speaker at the symposium. “As we look back in time to the days of the Continental Army to construct the model company, readiness has always been our watchword; the more leaders we have in a position to support our combat forces and contribute to the mission operationally, while taking care of our number one resource, the better.”