Otis Hosts First Ever Joint Force Additional Duty First Sergeant Course

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Francesca Skridulis
  • 102nd Intelligence Wing

Guardians and Airmen from the 102nd Intelligence Wing, 104th Fighter Wing, 105th Airlift Wing and the 6th Space Warning Squadron attended Otis’ first ever Joint Additional Duty First Sergeant Course on Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, May 10-12, 2022. In this course, these non-commissioned officers learned the finer details of the responsibilities of a first sergeant, and how to respond in a variety of scenarios to best support their Airmen, Guardians and their families.

Many NCO’s and Senior NCO’s take the course to learn how to become a better leader, and to follow in the footsteps of first sergeants and other leaders that have been an integral part of shaping their lives. The additional duty first sergeants course can be a great stepping stone towards applying for a first sergeant position, but it is also a great place to learn how to employ techniques, resources and a vast network of other additional duty first sergeants that can help them to solve problems and maintain readiness among the unit’s members.

Chief Master Sgt. Sean Sullivan, Command Chief Master Sgt. for the state of Massachusetts and a former first sergeant of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, spoke to the group about the importance of the role they will play as they walk out of the class with new skills and competencies.

“As a first sergeant, I think what you're doing is of vital importance,” said Sullivan. “Not just to this wing, but to the Air Force and the Air National Guard as a whole, because you are now a force multiplier. You have the luxury of still being in your AFSC, but you have now stepped up to that pinnacle where you are part of a command structure, and you are actually increasing the combat capability just by mere virtue of being an additional duty first sergeant.”

Additional duty first sergeants are NCO’s and senior NCO’s who do not hold an official first sergeant position, so they don’t wear a diamond on their uniform, but nevertheless, they do the job of a first sergeant in addition to their normal duties. In small National Guard and Space Force units, where there may not be positions for many full-fledged first sergeants, it can be incredibly beneficial to have several leaders trained as additional duty first sergeants to ensure readiness and to better take care of their people. As the First Sergeant Academy’s motto reads, “Our job is people, everyone is our business.”

Col. Sean Riley, Commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, shared his point of view from a command perspective.

“It's not just the commander,” said Riley. “It's the commander, the senior enlisted leader and the first sergeant, and that's super important. It's awesome to know that you have a senior enlisted leader and a first sergeant that will pick up the phone at 2 a.m. and will go get an Airman out of lockup, or go to deal with an Airman who's having a really difficult time. When we do discipline too, it is so great to have that first sergeant there knowing that he or she is going to support you as the commander, but also take care of that Airman, because really, we discipline our Airmen to try to get them back on track and course correct.”

After students made their introductions, Col. Timothy Gordon, Vice Commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, noted that almost every attendee mentioned that they wanted to be here to learn to better help people, and underlined how important their role will be in their units moving forward.

Tech. Sgt. Jason Whittaker, a participant in the course from 102nd Intelligence Wing, shared his motivation for taking the course and explained how this class has already begun to make an impact on his life and career.

“I joined because ever since the beginning of the pandemic, I became more and more focused on helping people and being resourceful to others,” said Whittaker. “This training is vital and gives you the opportunity to network with other NCOs from different AFSCs, squadrons and all walks of life. Since graduating from the course, I already feel empowered with ways to check in with my Airmen, my family and my friends at home, and I have more confidence in my ability to to contribute to the wellness of those around me with these new leadership tools."

According to AFI36-2113, first sergeants respond to the needs of unit members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. First sergeants are dedicated focal points for all readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality of life issues within their organization. They work directly for and derive authority from the unit commander and serve as a critical link for the commander within the unit. The position is critical to the execution of the unit mission.