First Sergeant Symposium ushers in next-generation enlisted leaders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Crampton
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
The First Sergeants’ Council of Team Moody hosted a First Sergeant Symposium from April 24-28, 2023, for noncommissioned officers interested in joining their ranks.

The bi-annual, week-long event gave attendees a chance to learn about the duties and responsibilities of a first sergeant and served as one of the first steps toward becoming one.

“The First Sergeant Symposium is our opportunity to do a couple of things,” said Master Sgt. William Vanover, 38th Rescue Squadron first sergeant. “We get to recruit and train our replacements, and it's a chance for attendees to come and get a look behind the curtain and see just what it is that a first sergeant does.”

The symposium brings together various support agencies and experienced first sergeants from across the base to share their knowledge, ensuring those who do move forward as additional duty first sergeants have a solid foundation. Attendees were introduced to a wide range of challenges and scenarios they may not experience within their own career fields.

“I came here to hone my leadership skills, but your perspective gets cracked wide open by how much you don't really know about what's going on behind the scenes,” said Tech Sgt. Steven Clennon, 372nd Training Squadron instructor element noncommissioned officer in charge. “I think this is something every NCO should go to so they can get a broader perspective just to understand what is not seen on everyday missions.”

Supervisors must be attuned to the needs of the mission while caring for their Airmen; oftentimes these responsibilities can mean the finer details of the many supporting agencies can be overlooked or even unknown to the supervisor – details a first sergeant has the opportunity to know more familiarly in order to support Airmen.

“This is a chance for them to receive training not only from us but from the base support agencies so they can be qualified in many different areas, very similar to what you would go through in the formal training down in Maxwell,” Vanover said. “That’s one of the unique things about also being a shirt, you get an opportunity to connect with people in so many different career fields, and that gives you a unique perspective of the Air Force that you probably don't get to see otherwise.”

First sergeants are a critical asset for every Air Force base, so these symposiums are essential in ensuring those positions are always filled with the right person at the right time.

“I think that having a qualified, well-rounded, core of undershirts is more critical now than maybe it has been in the past,” Vanover said. “As our operations tempo changes, and our mission set changes, and as Lead Wing cycles come and go, that pool of qualified undershirts will be very important.”

The participants of the symposium took an important step in their journey as enlisted leaders, with the tutelage and encouragement of Team Moody behind them.

“It’s a tough job but being on the command team is one of the most fun and rewarding jobs in the Air Force,” said Col. Russ Cook, 23rd Wing commander, during his opening remarks. “It’s your job to know everyone’s name and to look out for them. You’ll never be sure if you’re successful as a first sergeant. There’s no way to measure that but trust me – you are.”