Future first sergeants hone leadership skills at symposium

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Air Force District of Washington Command Information
In preparation for their leadership roles as senior enlisted advisors, more than 170 National Capital Region technical and master sergeants attended the 2018 First Sergeant Symposium at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Building here May 7-11.

Hosted by the Joint Base Andrews and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling First Sergeant Council, the event aims to develop the force in support of first sergeants, Airmen, and their families, and reinforce critical thinking and leadership skills, said Chief Master Sgt. John Payne, Air Force District of Washington first sergeant.

The responsibilities of those who hold the special senior non-commissioned officer rank, signified by a diamond in its center, can run the gamut from administrative, disciplinary, morale and welfare, and more.

“The Airmen here are force multipliers who will create a supportive culture to help prevent issues and challenges while also strengthening our respective support teams and agencies,” Payne said.

The multi-day event was chock-full of panels and presentations that covered a range of topics, to include: diversity and inclusion, sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, promotions, mental health, financial responsibility, family care plans, and mortuary affairs, among others.

Symposium attendee Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson, a broadcast journalism instructor for the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Md., said her selection as additional duty first sergeant in addition to interaction with influential first sergeants throughout her career is what sparked her interest in the event.

“Usually when people think about first sergeants, they think about getting in trouble and that’s not what a first sergeant is about,” Anderson said. “I’ve come in contact with first sergeants who’ve really helped me understand that we are a big family.”

Chief Master Sgt. Melanie K. Noel, AFDW command chief, presented anecdotes, scenarios, and real-world leadership challenges to help enhance management, reasoning, and objectivity skills among the NCOs. The first sergeant, she asserted, plays a critical role in guiding, mentoring, and advising Airmen at any stage of their career. "The charge to familiarize yourself with all options and resources available and impart that knowledge to Airmen in need without personal bias is a responsibility that can't be understated."

In his remarks, Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, Air Force District of Washington commander, stressed the importance of taking care of Airmen and the lasting positive impact first sergeants can have on them, their families, and their commitment to a career in the Air Force.

"However an Airman may get here, there comes a point where I think they recognize the Air Force is a family, especially when they encounter a first sergeant who really takes care of them," Jacobson said. "In the end, you as the first sergeant, and the superintendent, are the number one retention mechanisms in the United States Air Force."