More rewarding than you know: Consider becoming a first sergeant

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. James Lindner
  • 8th Maintenance Operations Squadron first sergeant
Promotion selections to master sergeant are scheduled for release mid-May, and the Air Force is set to gain a large pool of selects eligible for the first sergeant special duty.

If you're currently a master sergeant or happen to be one of those selected, I encourage you to seriously consider applying to become a first sergeant. By October 2012, the Air Force is projected to be only 82 percent manned for first sergeants.

That equates to 217 units across the Air Force that will be without a first sergeant. The need is there and the opportunity is yours. While I can only speak from my personal experiences as a first sergeant, I am confident that choosing to become a first sergeant is a decision you will not regret.

One of the biggest misconceptions about being a first sergeant is the duties associated with wearing the diamond are mostly negative - middle of the night phone calls, Articles 15 and the long hours. True, these things happen, but they are not nearly as common as you may think, and they tend to only occur in spurts.

On the contrary, the positive aspects of being a first sergeant far outweigh the bad. Becoming a first sergeant widens your breadth of experience and exposes you to functional areas of the Air Force you may never have had the opportunity to by remaining in your primary specialty.

In just two and a half years, I have been a first sergeant for air traffic controllers, weather forecasters, civil engineers, comptrollers, database managers, schedulers and weapons load personnel, to name a few. As a cyber operator, I rarely interacted with Airmen in these specialties.

There is more than just the exposure to other career fields, though. There is also the opportunity to work closely with commanders, chiefs and civilians leaders at all levels.

Above all, this is a chance to learn directly from experienced leaders, and second, the ability to work with them to influence changes that can positively impact your squadron, group, wing, base or even the Air Force as a whole. Furthermore, along with the other first sergeants at your base, you have a collective voice that can directly raise the quality of life for our Airmen.

One final aspect I would like to mention is the opportunity you will have to help Airmen in their careers, and beyond that, in their lives.

Two and half years has gone by fast, but in that time, I have helped countless Airmen through life-impacting situations, whether it be divorce or saving a marriage, helping them get back on their feet after a serious illness, major accident or attempted suicide, cheering them on when they succeed and helping overcome failure, and most recently reuniting a mother with her son.

I have not given these examples in order to receive any recognition for myself, but so those interested in becoming a first sergeant can see the things first sergeants do that most often go unseen and are by far the most rewarding parts of the job.

If you are interested in the first sergeant special duty, a good place to start is with your own first sergeant. If your unit does not have a first sergeant, I am confident any first sergeant at your base will be willing to help you with your application and even give you an opportunity to shadow them to help you in your decision. Specific information regarding the first sergeant special duty can be found on the Air Force Personnel Services website under "Assignment." It is truly a tough but extremely rewarding job, which may be just right for you!