Nashville, Tenn. --
Shortly after he assumed command, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who has made squadron revitalization one of his top priorities, said “Leaders have a sacred charge: to take care of people so those people can take care of the mission. … Your duty as a leader is to work tirelessly to clear obstacles between your people and their mission.”
Over 210 first sergeants from across the Air Force did their part to aid the CSAF’s squadron revitalization effort, as they gathered at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Tennessee July 21-27, 2019 for a summit and symposium to become better leaders of Airmen.
Leaders and functional managers from the across the first sergeant community presented over the course of the week to better inform, train, and prepare the first sergeants in the field.
“The first sergeant really is a lynchpin for health, morale, and welfare of the unit,” said Chief Master Sgt. Casy Boomershine, the first sergeant functional manager for Air Mobility Command. “That’s right in their wheelhouse, that’s exactly what their concerned about.”
A common theme throughout this summit and symposium, in its fifth year and organized by the three Tennessee Air National Guard wings, was the importance of communication.
“The chief master sgt. of the Air Force has a mantra of always telling folks to squint with their ears, so you'll understand that all of our Airmen are dealing with life,” said Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, the Air Force first sergeant special duty manager. “It's our job as senior leaders to make sure that we fix those limiting factors, and gain the momentum to provide them the resources they need.”
One way first sergeants were able to learn and train was simply by talking and networking with first sergeants from other units.
Chief Master Sgt. Nathaniel Perry Jr., the commandant of the Air Force First Sergeant Academy, said that symposiums like this, which bring together first sergeants from across the globe and from all three Air Force components, allow them to share best practices, and develop new ones. This focused effort to improve the lives of Airmen helps to drive the mission forward, which in turn helps to revitalize squadrons.
Another main purpose of this summit and symposium is to make sure first sergeants are prepared to make positive contributions to the leadership in their units.
Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin Williams, the command chief master sergeant for the 118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard and one of the main organizers of the event, said this gathering is designed to give first sergeants their requisite 12 hours of annual training, and to ensure first sergeants have the proper skills to contribute as a part of the leadership triad. By being able to better advise commanders and command chiefs, these first sergeants will be doing their part in helping squadron revitalization.
The training in turn also improved leadership skills that are vital in managing healthy squadrons.
Chief Master Sgt. Lorene Kitzmiller, the Air National Guard first sergeant functional manager, said the skills necessary to become a strong leader were being taught at this summit and symposium. This is critical, because squadrons run on strong leadership, and it’s essential for first sergeants to be strong leaders in order to take care of Airmen.
Some obstacles that first sergeants addressed were using their leadership roles to overcome the operational and administrative differences between the ANG, Reserve, and active duty to operate as one total force.
“I find it tremendous that we have each component represented here; visually it sends a message to the field that we are not trying to go total force integration, we are [integrating],” said Chief Master Sgt. Travon Dennis, the Air Force Reserve Command first sergeant functional manager. “Nobody cares outside of that gate which branch you serve, what they are going to see is Air Force labeled on our chest.”
Regardless of the component, the attendees were really inspired by how well the summit and symposium was organized and managed.
“This [event] has actually inspired me to try to get this same kind of thing going on the West Coast,” said Master Sgt. Tanya McGuire, a reservist first sergeant with the 312th Airlift Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California. “Seeing how it's been going and how it's been ran by the guard, it's phenomenal.”
Even in the planning for the event, the clearing obstacles aspect of Goldfein’s message and total force integration was kept at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Williams said a Reserve and active-duty member were intentionally put on the planning committee for this year’s summit and symposium. They along with the leadership of the other command chief master sergeants of the Tennessee ANG, Chief Master Sgt. Jimmie Jones of the 164th Airlift Wing and Chief Master Sgt. Stanley Drozdowski of the 134th Air Refueling Wing, were instrumental in achieving the total force objective of the event.
“The Tennessee Air National Guard is showing exactly how you do it right,” said Boomershine. “How do you show people total force integration? You do this.”