By Karen Abeyasekere, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 21, 2021
Team Mildenhall first sergeants, NCOs and senior NCOs salute during the National Anthem while conducting Retreat at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, April 20, 2021. The Airmen attended a first sergeant symposium to help prepare them as interim first sergeants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Garrett Hetzel, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron first sergeant, leads Retreat as part of the first sergeant symposium at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, April 20, 2021. The base’s First Sergeant Council hosted a first sergeant symposium April 19 to 23 for potential and interim first sergeants. Topics included maintenance of discipline, administrative demotions and counseling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jeremiah Bybee, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, leads a discussion about a video on what happens when a military member gets charged with a DUI during a first sergeant symposium at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, April 20, 2021. Topics discussed during the week-long symposium included maintenance of discipline, administrative demotions and counselling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)
Team Mildenhall NCOs and senior NCOs listen as 100th Air Refueling Wing Chaplain Matthew Brantley and Staff Sgt. Garrett Bowen, 100th ARW Chapel NCO in charge of resources and readiness, share information about how they can help Airmen with a variety of situations during a symposium hosted by the First Sergeant Council at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, April 19, 2021. Topics discussed during the week-long symposium included maintenance of discipline, administrative demotions and counselling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)
Royal Air Force Mildenhall’s First Sergeant Council hosted a symposium for potential first sergeants April 19 to 23.
More than 46 years-worth of experience was shared at the bi-annual event, consisting of targeted training and interactive modules to help prepare attendees to qualify as interim first sergeants.
“The symposium serves as a force multiplier for the first sergeant career field,” said Master Sgt. Vedran Ogramić, 100th Maintenance Operations Squadron first sergeant. “Attendees are equipped with advanced supervisory skills, so even if they decide not to become a first sergeant, supervisory tools they gain by attending the symposium are invaluable in their development as enlisted leaders.
Topics included first sergeant responsibilities, maintenance of discipline, administrative demotions and separations, death and command responsibilities, and counselling, confrontation and mediation. There were also video discussions and multiple guest speakers.
“Skills gained during the symposium offer a structured solution and starting point to an otherwise unstructured duty as a first sergeant job can be. When the tough call to duty inevitably comes, the attendees can rely upon the training they received to control potentially chaotic situations they may find themselves in,” Ogramić explained. “Additionally, as first sergeants we are charged with ‘building the bench’ of ready and capable enlisted leaders to carve out their path onto becoming a first sergeant as they progress in their career.”
Experienced first sergeants shared their knowledge with attendees, answered questions and provided valuable information on a vast range of topics.
“Attending the symposium gives you a peak behind closed doors on areas you could be involved in, and the resources that can help you, while filling the role of a first sergeant,” said Master Sgt. Garrett Hetzel, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron first sergeant. “In my experience, this is ‘step one’ of the entire process.”
Per Air Force Instruction 36-2113, “The First Sergeant,” it is preferred that members attend the symposium before assuming the position, especially if they’re going to hold the position for more than 30 days.
“The training makes you aware of resources and personnel that you may have not been exposed to in the past, and allows you to ask questions with subject matter experts to dispel rumors and get the facts,” added Hetzel. “The training gives you a starting point to solving solutions. Often times if you know where to start, it makes solving situations easier.
Approximately 50 potential first sergeants, including some from RAF Lakenheath, attended the symposium and said they found it very beneficial.
“Hearing about the experiences of first sergeants helps me understand as a supervisor what’s going to happen if something were to happen with any of my members. This gives me all the same resources the first sergeant has, so if my Airmen need help, I the tools to better help them,” said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Hamm, 48th Munitions Squadron munitions control section chief.
Learning about the various tools available at the symposium gives the attendees a good foundation, should they wish to become a first sergeant during their career.
As someone who has been a first sergeant for four years, Senior Master Sgt. José Velasquez-Morales, 352nd Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, has a wealth of experience to share, and said he feels the symposium is a valuable way of providing information.
“It’s vital for us to share every piece of knowledge we’ve learned during our time as a ‘Diamond;’ it’s the only way to guarantee that future generations of first sergeants are prepared to take care of our force,” he said. “The best advice I can give to those preparing to become a first sergeant is to be yourself, be genuine and listen to the story of every individual.”