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Symposium empowers Airmen to help Airmen

Symposium empowers Airmen to help Airmen

Master Sgt. Phillip Taylor, 75th Air Base Wing first sergeant, answers a question during a First Sergeant Symposium at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, April 26, 2021. Attendees of the symposium learned the duties and responsibilities of a first sergeant and the resources available to them if selected to serve as an additional duty first sergeant. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Symposium empowers Airmen to help Airmen

Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Walker, 75th Air Base Wing command chief, provides opening remarks for a First Sergeant Symposium at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, April 26, 2021. Attendees of the symposium learned the duties and responsibilities of a first sergeant and the resources available to them if selected to serve as an additional duty first sergeant. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Team Hill’s First Sergeant Council held a First Sergeants Symposium April 26-29 in the base theater here.

A total of 47 Airmen attended the four-day symposium to learn the duties and responsibilities of an additional duty first sergeant and the resources available to them.

“The First Sergeants Symposium is our indoctrination of NCOs and senior NCOs in what a first sergeant does and what their duties and responsibilities would be if they were to “hold the phone.” It also allows us to meet them, get to know them, and help us make the decision on whether or not to use them as additional duty first sergeants,” said Master Sgt. Phillip Taylor, 75th Air Base Wing first sergeant.

An additional duty first sergeant steps into a first sergeant role, or holds the phone, for a full-time first sergeant on a temporary basis.

Often referred to as “first shirt,” or “shirt,” a first sergeant is responsible for the morale, welfare and conduct of all enlisted members in a unit and is the chief adviser to the unit’s commander concerning the enlisted force.

Shirts are the eyes and ears of the commander, the voice of the enlisted force and most often the first person contacted when an Airmen needs help.

“A lot of people think that first sergeants deal with just discipline and that is such a minor part of it. It’s about helping people,” said Master Sgt. Erin Henning, 388th Logistics Support Squadron first sergeant. “I can have someone walk in my office with a problem that is just so huge for them and sometimes in five minutes they can walk out feeling that I just saved their day.”

“It’s about being able to help people, that’s why I took the job and why I enjoy it,” Henning said.

The symposium covered a wide range of topics from security forces procedures, inspections and searches, domestic violence, authorized and unauthorized absences, administrative actions, promotions and demotions, administrative separations, non-judicial punishment, self-care and others.

Attendees also learned about local helping agencies they may interact with as an additional duty first sergeant.

“I try to get a lot of my technical sergeants to attend just so they get the experience and whether or not they ever hold the phone, they are going to gain a lot of information they may not get anywhere else,” said Senior Master Sgt. Simon McCabe, Ogden Air Logistics Complex first sergeant.

Taking the phone can be intimidating to a first time additional duty first sergeant, the symposium gives them a lot of information and resources in carrying out the duty, but the biggest resource for a first shirt is their fellow shirts.

McCabe said he remembers when he sat in a symposium and was scared to death of taking the phone and not knowing what to do.

“So, for them to see the fact that as first sergeants we don’t know everything and we constantly talk to each other helps put them at ease and makes it a lot easier for them to hold the phone,” he said.