Now, more than ever, the Air Force needs first sergeants

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Cheryl Steevens
  • 66th Training Squadron
It was 1998 and I was assigned to the 92nd Transportation Squadron. My first sergeant was a force to be reckoned with. To put it plainly, she scared me to death. One day, while sitting in a briefing at Airman Leadership School, I vaguely listened to the first sergeant's panel. To my dismay, my first sergeant posed the question, "which of you have plans to become a first sergeant?" I quickly ducked my head as she tried to make eye contact, but she called me out and said, "Senior Airman Steevens, I'm surprised that you didn't raise your hand, I thought that you would have made a great First Sergeant." Me, a leader? She actually thought I had the ability to help and guide others? Little did she know, that simple statement took me from planning on separating from the Air Force to pursuing a career as a first sergeant. I will not tell you it was easy. Over the years of my career, I juggled a marriage, four sons, multiple deployments and overseas assignments. When it came to promotions, I struggled. My peers seemed to fly by me, some making senior master sergeant and even chief master sergeant while I seemingly struggled for every stripe--each one taking me three attempts.
     About five years ago, I almost gave up my goal. Fortunately, during an ALS graduation, I found renewed spirit. As the guest speaker took the podium, I remember hoping he would be brief. I know that sounds horrible, but I was tired and ready to go home for the night. However, as luck would have it, and at a time I needed it the most, the speaker, a chief, immediately grabbed my attention. The ways he spoke of taking care of the Airman made me want to run out and immediately implement some amazing plan. This individual was the first sergeant for the maintenance group and I had the distinct honor of shadowing him for a week--reinforcing my original decision to become a first sergeant.
     This summer, I finally accomplished my goal of earning the coveted diamond and I was blessed with an assignment to the 22nd Training Squadron. I can honestly tell you that every time one of the Airmen seeks my advice, I am humbled that the military not only entrusted me with this group of people, but that it also provided me with outstanding leaders who helped guide me along the way.
     When I was asked to write this article, I was told to write on leadership. In doing so, I had two important goals. The first was to remind you that there are leaders all around who are waiting to provide you guidance. They may not be in your chain, you may not even know how or when they will affect you, but keep your mind open to the possibilities.
     Second, now, more than ever, the Air Force needs first sergeants. If this is a career change you have considered, pursue it! As I've shared my story, it can be a long road, but the satisfaction of helping just one Airman will be well worth the trials.