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Enhancing Leadership Beyond Duty: Kirtland’s first sergeant professional development seminar

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Karissa Dick
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In an effort to promote professional growth and build camaraderie, the first sergeants from Kirtland, Cannon, and Holloman Air Force Bases and the New Mexico Air National Guard recently gathered for a seminar that extended beyond their conventional roles at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Feb. 1-2, 2024.

With about 40 first sergeants in attendance, this event proved to be a unique opportunity for professional development that featured guest speakers and interactive discussions.

“We came together as New Mexico first shirts to talk about issues specific to our region, form a stronger community, network with each other, and compare our ideas and perspectives,” said Master Sgt. Jenality Wheeler, 27th Special Operations Munition Squadron first sergeant at Cannon AFB, N.M. “When we gather together as first shirts, we try to do professional development that we can use to develop ourselves and bring back to our force.”

One notable speaker at the seminar was Chief Master Sgt. John Alsvig, Air Force first sergeant special duty manager, who delved into the history and origins of first sergeants in the United States military. Emphasizing their significance, Alsvig also mentioned the qualities that define a great first shirt and expanded the discussion to address topics such as first sergeant to Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) transitions, deployments and first sergeant community initiatives. This discussion highlighted the pivotal role first sergeants play in the Air Force.

“When it comes to self-care, resiliency, counseling, and the people business, we are the gold standard in all the services for all the great things that the American Air Force first sergeant is,” emphasized Alsvig. “I know we can work to expand the operational credibility, operational relevance, and the operational IQ on what it means to be a first sergeant.”

The seminar attendees further benefited from the expertise of Senior Master Sgt. Angie Jordan, first sergeant career field manager from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, who shared valuable insights on first sergeant recruitment and retainment, the importance of self-care and assignment management processes. Jordan also addressed the process of transitioning from a first sergeant back to their primary AFSC. This discussion provided attendees the knowledge needed to prepare and plan their careers as first sergeants.

“Senior Jordan gave us a lot of insight on how assignment decisions are made and that it’s a family business when assigning bases,” elaborated Wheeler. “That transparency allows me to prepare myself and my family, so I’m able to go full force and serve where I’m needed. I really appreciate her being upfront with what they need when filling those positions.”

Another guest speaker, Chief Master Sgt. Demetrius Booth, 2nd Mission Support Group senior enlisted leader from Barksdale AFB, La., emphasized the importance of mutual trust within teams. Drawing on his experience, he emphasized the necessity of working diligently to earn and continually build trust to create an exceptional team.

“I took a lot from Chief Master Sgt. Demetrius during his speeches about mentoring versus coaching,” said Wheeler. “He challenged our way of thinking. When we help others win, it helps us win because everyone is more willing to help each other. I really appreciate that I can bring that altruistic mindset back with me.”

Booth also touched upon various developmental topics, including coaching for leaders and changes needed to become a successful first sergeant. His insights provided a framework for attendees to enhance their leadership capabilities and foster teamwork within their units.

The seminar also included a question-and-answer session, where first sergeants had the opportunity to engage with the speakers, address questions regarding their personal careers and seek advice. This interactive session facilitated an exchange of ideas and experiences that promoted camaraderie and collaboration among the attendees.

Overall, the First Sergeant Professional Development Seminar held at Kirtland was a resounding success. By bringing together first sergeants from different bases and featuring guest speakers, the event not only provided a platform for professional development, but also strengthened the bonds within the first sergeant community.

“I’ve enjoyed coming together with my counterparts. We always have a good time together and it’s imperative that we meet,” said Wheeler. “The Air Force needs people in first sergeant positions to be challenged, but also have this humbling experience. To come here and see different perspectives, to learn, and to grow is important. I look forward to the next time I come.”

As these leaders return to their respective bases, they bring with them not only the knowledge gained here, but also a renewed commitment to excellence in their roles as first sergeants and noncommissioned officers in the Air Force.