Diamond Spotlight on Master Sgt. James Barnes

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darrell Hamm
  • 118th Wing
Barnes, a self-proclaimed military brat, started his career in March of 1987 as Security Forces. Barnes was first assigned to McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas.

“I went into the military because I really didn’t have any other place that I wanted to go.” said Barnes, “I was law enforcement my first year and a half. I pulled a law enforcement billet. [Then] I was SAC (Strategic Air Command) elite.”

In 1990 Barnes took advantage of the Air Force’s Palace Chase program allowing him to transition from active duty to the 118th Security Forces Squadron. In 1993 Barnes was activated locally for Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. While training for desert warfare at Creech AFB in Nevada, Barnes injured his knee. Unable to accomplish his job, Barnes cross-trained into communications specializing in plans and implementation.

After a time as a unit compliance inspector and a deployment to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Barnes felt the need to progress. A conversation with the Chief Master Sergeant over Communications convinced him it was time to try his hand as a first sergeant.

“She felt for my progression and my personality that I should go and be a first sergeant.” Said Barnes, “The first time I didn’t get it. I applied for a little bit and then finally I got selected to be CE’s (Civil Engineering) first sergeant in 2010.”

Barnes remained at CE until 2012. While there he learned about being a first sergeant from his mentor.

“Chief Freeland was my mentor.” said Barnes, “He was the first sergeant prior to me taking the diamond. There’s a lot of things he taught me. A lot of things that being a first sergeant I never knew that ‘yeah, that’s me’. He showed me the ropes.”

In 2012 CE’s first sergeant position was eliminated. Barnes went back to what he considers his home, communications. But another opportunity presented itself in 2016. During his interview for the first sergeant position at the 118th MSG Barnes made it very clear what his intentions were.

”My job, if you select me, is not to be Julie the cruise director.” said Barnes, “My job is to take care of my Airmen, make sure they are ready for deployment, and make sure that everything that is needed for them is there. So, if you want me just to be somebody to make sure they go to the movies at night, that’s not me.”

Barnes was chosen to be the first sergeant of the unit shortly thereafter.

“I enjoy working with Master Sgt. Barnes.” said Chief Master Sgt. Nick Rogers, Chief of the 118th MSG. “He is truly an asset to the 118th MSG personnel. His passion for the job and commitment to the troops shines through.”

Barnes is confident that his work as a first sergeant will help others but understands there is always good and bad to every job.

“I love helping people.” said Barnes, “I love being a first sergeant. If somebody is listening to what I have to say and they get promoted and they become the best Airman [possible] I’ve done my job. Now on the other hand, nobody wants to be the bad guy. That’s where we sit. Sometimes you have to call the baby ugly but even in counseling I can help you.”

Barnes’ message to new Airmen is simple.

“Remember what you came in for.” Said Barnes, “You signed your name on the dotted line to do a job, to wear a uniform, to represent the United States of America. This is YOUR job.”