Airmen helping Airmen: first sergeants
By Airman 1st Class Whitney Laine, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 30, 2018
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- The Airman could see the neon lights in the distance, growing as she neared the gas station. She knew there was an ample amount of alcohol inside; enough to re-stock her vacant liquor cabinet. Each day she willed herself to drive forward to her recovery class. Her alcohol addiction roared in her head, willing her hands to turn the car into the gas station parking lot. She wouldn’t this time, the next time or the time after. Fighting the craving, she pulled over and called her first sergeant to find counsel and relief.
This is one of the many accounts Master Sgt. Elizabeth Conant, 92nd Force Support Squadron, Comptroller Squadron and Wing Staff Agency first sergeant, has encountered during her two years as a first sergeant.
From alcoholism to uniform regulations, first sergeants are instilled within units to provide assistance to Airmen and their families 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“As a first sergeant, my job is to make myself available to whatever Airmen need,” Conant said. “Some circumstances require immediate action. For example, domestic violence or the death of an Airman’s family member calls for urgent attention. Those are situations that can’t wait, I am there.”
First sergeants are a key resource between commanders and the Airmen. They play a vital role in keeping the units mission-ready.
“I am the commander’s eyes and ears within the unit,” Conant said. “If something isn’t going the way it should, I report back to the commander. Recognizing anything that is brought to me could affect the climate of the unit, I talk to the commander so that we can continue to successfully execute the mission.”
Throughout their training, first sergeants gain knowledge on a vast amount of resources for Airmen and their families. First sergeants attend two weeks of classes to learn various information, including; family care plans, unaccompanied housing, and death and command responsibility. This is followed by a four-week distance learning course. This training allows them to support Airmen with their life stressors and set them up with additional help if it is needed.
“First sergeants act as a focal point for Airmen to base resources,” Master Sgt. Maggie Trujillo, 92nd Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. “We have a base level of support for Airmen, but if more action or information is needed, we know who to reach out to. To ensure that Airmen receive the assistance they need, first sergeants will follow-up with the Airman after arranging an appointment with a direct contact.”
Often, first sergeants engage with Airmen outside of their office to build rapport and engage in the units.
“I go out into the work places of our Airmen because it can be intimidating to come into my office,” Conant said. “I want the Airmen to know that I am always available to them and want them to feel comfortable coming to me with any questions or issues that they have. I am ears that will always listen.”