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Helping Airmen – first sergeants make a difference

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Boles
  • 71st Flying Training Wing first sergeant

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- I became a first sergeant to help Airmen and to make a difference in their lives.

COVID-19 has brought challenges we never thought we’d face, and social distancing has been tough on Team Vance and its members. Vance is a small community and as such a small family. Its members depend on social interaction to feel connected.

In light of the extended social distancing and teleworking operations, the Vance First Sergeants Council decided we should do something to give back to our Vance community.

Hosting a drive-through burger burn seemed like a great way to lay eyes on our folks, interact in a smart way and provide a free hot meal. We asked for assistance and the Chapel Corps, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office, and some key wing and group leaders joined us.

The event was open to all that live and work on Vance and was a huge success. We fed contractors, civilians, military members, dependents and ended up serving over 600 meals.

At the end of the day, regardless of the numbers, it was great seeing so many smiling faces drive up, saying “Hi” and “Thank you”. It also reinforced the first sergeant’s role at the organizational level.

When there is trouble, the first call made is often fielded by the first sergeants.

We spend our days interacting with members of our units and the base populace in what I call "walkabout leadership." The first sergeant’s role is really about relationship building. It's important because building rapport helps to build trust. When the members under our charge are going through tough times, they are willing to come to the "Shirt" for help.

If an NCO is the backbone of the Air Force, then the first sergeant is the heart and soul. No other enlisted person carries the responsibility and authority of the first sergeant.

First sergeants advise commanders on the readiness, health, morale, welfare, and quality of life of Airmen and families to ensure a mission-ready force.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the Airmen, and how we can all succeed in executing the mission.