Fairchild First Sergeants use teamwork, training to provide mission-ready Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Matthew Arachikavitz
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

In the Air Force, the first sergeant plays a critical role to their command that is defined by selfless sacrifice and intentional devotion to their respective unit.

Commonly referred to as, “shirts,” the primary duty of first sergeants is providing mission-ready Airmen to commanders. 

“It’s also our job to take care of the human side of readiness and to make sure Airmen are well prepared and taken care of,” said Master Sgt. Nicole Egloff, 92nd Medical Group first sergeant.

Because they are not part of any Airman’s chain of command, first sergeants report directly to the commander and are able to provide support with less barriers than other command leaders. Egloff noted that shirts are typically placed in units that are not a part of their normal functional specialty so they can bring new perspectives and ideas.

“That’s really great for us because we don’t have that sort of bias of that unit,” she explained. “When you’re an outsider and you come to a unit, and you don’t really understand the job, you’re able to just look at the culture and see what it is as opposed to being blinded by it. That helps us to give our commanders good advice and good perspective on what we’re seeing and what we think we can do to help.”

As a result of their willingness to help, Team Fairchild’s First Sergeant Council was recently recognized as Air Mobility Command’s First Sergeant Council of the Quarter for their work and impact in the community following the recent wildfires that destroyed many homes in the local area.

“At Fairchild, we have a very strong first sergeant network,” said Egloff. “When one of our units need something, we all rally around and work together.”

At its core, being a first sergeant means having the desire to take care of people. Egloff explained that some Airmen who step into that role have difficulties finding the balance between work and home life. 

“I used to be very bad at work-life balance,” Egloff admitted. “I used to go home and just keep thinking about work. There was a point where it would keep me up at night. What I learned in the long run is that worrying about my job after I leave does not make me better at my job. It actually makes me much worse at my job.”

Chief Master Sgt. William Arcuri, 92nd Air Refueling Wing command chief, also stressed the importance of having a healthy work-life balance. He highlighted this quality as a key to being a successful first sergeant during his opening remarks at the First Sergeant Symposium at Fairchild Air Force Base, Oct. 31.

“We want all of our leadership across the installation to practice and demonstrate a healthy work-life balance,” said Arcuri. “The reason I say that is because the first sergeant in your squadron, whether a diamond or additional-duty, is only one person, but they're going to need the teamwork of the other additional-duty first sergeants to step in to help balance that out.

“So all the additional-duty first sergeants in a squadron are part of that diamond team who need to make sure they're demonstrating proper work-life balance to the force and staying ready to do difficult things when asked,” Arcuri added.

In order to develop and maintain a strong network of additional-duty first sergeants, Team Fairchild’s First Sergeant Council hosted over 20 Airmen during its four-day First Sergeant Symposium Oct. 31 - Nov. 3, 2023.

Attendees for the symposium ranged from Airmen seeking information and resources for their units to those who are on their way to becoming full-time or additional-duty first sergeants.

For Master Sgt. Kevin Eyre, 92nd Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of training, being a first sergeant has a very personal meaning. He explained that his motivation to step into this position brings with it the opportunity to change the culture of a unit and a base.

“I want to be the mentor and advocate for my Airmen that I didn’t have when I was a young Airmen myself,” he said. “My entire goal is to be approachable, attainable, transparent and visible.”

Eyre recalled a previous experience where a former first sergeant openly celebrated security forces Airmen getting in trouble by displaying their removed badges on a corkboard. Seeing that made him feel like that wasn’t a leader he could approach with issues, so he sought to be the change.

“That's something that I would never do,” he said. “So I found senior NCOs that I really looked up to and admired, took those good qualities and attributed them to myself and used them to shape who I wanted to be.

“So I like taking that mentality into a first sergeant role,” he added. “When I have the opportunity to hold the first sergeant phone, I know every time that phone rings, it’s my duty and responsibility to be there and be available when they're going through whatever they're going through."