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AFGSC Command Chief First Sergeant briefs Kirtland first sergeants

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

Stand up, take a deep breath, and shake your arms out. Now that you’re relaxed, cross your arms over your chest. Have you ever noticed you cross your arms a specific way every time? Now take a deep breath, shake your arms out again, but cross them the opposite way now. It should feel different and new, maybe even uncomfortable.

This is an exercise Chief Master Sgt. Neco Johnson, Air Force Global Strike Command command chief first sergeant, used to describe being a first sergeant during Kirtland’s biannual first sergeant symposium at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 31, 2023.

“Being a first sergeant is going to feel very awkward in the beginning and unnatural,” said Johnson. “The more you do it, the more you have those conversations, the more you step into that discomfort instead of running from it, will make it feel more natural. You will be able to do this.”

The intent of this symposium was to train and prepare non-commissioned officers to become interim first sergeants because they are crucial to leading and developing the Airmen and officers within the Air Force. The NCOs were briefed on Equal Opportunity, Command Post, the Office of Special Investigations, Family Advocacy and had the opportunity to discuss scenarios with a Kirtland first sergeant panel and later with the AFGSC command chief first sergeant, Neco Johnson.

During his briefing, Johnson expressed the importance of first sergeants within their units, how they can best support the unit and Airmen, possible challenges and how to overcome them, and managing a good work life balance.

“The best parts of this job are the people, so take it seriously. They need you; your unit needs you, and your commanders need you,” emphasized Johnson. “Leading people, taking care of our commanders, and taking care of your folks and families is why we all love it. As first sergeants, we have the opportunity to accompany Airmen during the good and the bad on their path to success and it's essential that we rise to that challenge.”

One of the symposium attendees, Tech. Sgt. Wallace Pallicer, NCO officer-in-charge of religious affairs True North, shared his experience.

 “What I took away most from the symposium was the tools that are at my disposal to help Airmen deal with any problem they may come across,” said Pallicer. “At Kirtland we are fortunate enough to have an excellent community of first sergeants that are able to lean on each other to make sure we are doing right for our Airmen.”

Pallicer elaborated that this symposium doesn’t just help NCOs when performing first sergeant duties, but also as front-line supervisors and knowing answers to questions for Airmen at a lower level before an issue even needs to reach the command. The briefings and panel at the symposium not only encouraged critical thinking and open-ended conversations, but also provided NCOs with real world experiences that they may deal with as acting first sergeants.

“It was an honor to hear Chief Johnson’s advice and perspective,” said Pallicer. “His brief shed light on what he deals with at a command level and his ability to show his vulnerabilities as not only a shirt, but as an individual, led to some great conversation and motivation for us assuming the mantel. He explained that there is no one answer on how a leader should be mindful and resilient, but knowing when to take a knee to be a better advocate for your people said a lot about how Chief Johnson cares for his Airmen, and in turn was a deep inspiration for our class.”

Pallicer encourages any NCOs who are on the fence about performing first sergeant duty to receive this training during the next symposium because it offers a wealth of knowledge for NCOs and their Airmen.