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My First Sergeant Academy Experience

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Lorenzo Peterson
  • 90th Force Support Squadron
I just returned from the Air Force First Sergeant Academy and my experience was amazing. I was provided the opportunity to meet several enlisted Air Force leaders; such as our current Chief Master of the Air Force James A. Cody. However, this experience did not start off immediately at Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. Six months ago, I accepted the challenge and stepped outside of my comfort zone in security forces, where I was previously assigned as a flight chief in the 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron and was assigned as the interim first sergeant for the 90th Security Support Squadron.

My first day at the First Sergeant Academy was very intimidating. I was entering an academy that the ninth CMSAF (Retired) James C. Binnicker, the 15th CMSAF (Retired) Rodney J. McKinley, and several other distinguished enlisted Air Force leaders had graduated from. My nerves were calmed after passing an exam that tested us on everything we learned during required online training before the academy class. After the test, our 67-person class was broken down into six smaller Total Force Integration classes.

My class of 11 Airmen was a mixture of Active, Guard and Reserve personnel and our instructor was a seasoned Reserve first sergeant. The two weeks of in-residence was very instructive because we received practical hands-on training and experience that could not be offered online. We were given scenarios we might face and we also learned in detail about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, non-judicial punishment, counseling sessions, emergency leave, casualty services, and many other lessons.

My favorite part of the academy was meeting former CMSAF (Retired) James Binnicker and former CMSAF (Retired) Eric W. Benken. I learned from the former enlisted leaders how Stripes for Exceptional Performers and the Air Force core values were created.

Air Force first sergeants are to "provide and maintain a mission ready force at both home station and in expeditionary environments." We also learned about other services' views on their first sergeants responsibilities. Marine first sergeants are also directed to "provide a mission ready force." I liked the Marine first sergeant's view on "working for" the Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen. He tied this into his combat deployment with the U.S. Army and taking care of the troops.

Our class also had the opportunity to skype with deployed first sergeants in Afghanistan. The deployed shirts gave us an outlook of what we would face during our deployments as first sergeants.

One of the big lessons I learned in the First Sergeant Academy is if I don't take care of my family and myself, I will not be able to effectively take care of the Airmen. It is important for first sergeants to have a life as well outside of work.

A recurring theme I learned at the academy was "if you take care of the Airmen, they will take care of the mission." It feels good to officially be a part of the first sergeant corps and I am glad that I made the decision to become an Air Force first sergeant. My goal is to have a positive impact on every Airman who needs my help. I am looking forward to 2014 and my next three years of shirt duty.