JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Five international partners from throughout the Indo-Pacific AOR joined 120 Airmen for the 2018 Team Hickam First Sergeant Symposium, July 16-20 here.
The annual five-day event, designed to mentor and grow future first sergeants, informed attendees of the roles and responsibilities of a first sergeant. Discussions on best practices and innovative ideas to improve their future performance were shared between international partners and Airmen.
“Our studies are the same and we are discussing very important topics that all the military cares about,” said Sri Lanka Air Force Command Master Warrant Officer (CMWO) Ranjith Kumara, the equivalent to the Air Force Chief Master Sgt. “It is very helpful to see techniques that are being used to enhance capabilities from junior to senior ranks.”
Kumara mentioned that his team will be implementing four schools like this symposium in the near future and the cooperation between international partners is a very important element to its success. “One nation can’t go forward alone without the others, and this symposium is just one example of us partnering together to learn from each other,” he said.
International students were first integrated into the Team Hickam First Sergeant Symposium in 2015, knowing they would be able to add a unique perspective and valuable insight to the role of first sergeants.
“I have been constantly talking with our international partners about the differences and similarities between the branches,” said Tech. Sgt. Sarah Petway, 65th Airlift Squadron flight attendant.
Being able to talk with the international partners provided the opportunity for her to understand how they may approach tasks differently and, in turn, give the partners an idea of how valuable Airmen are to the U.S. Air Force.
“This [symposium] lets them get a taste of what it’s like to work with us. It’s all about how joint forces and coalition forces are [successful] together.,” said Petway, who added she came to the symposium in order to prepare herself for becoming a senior non-commissioned officer, and one day a first sergeant, and to help develop, learn and grow as an Airman. “There was something one of the presenters said that really stuck in my mind, he said, ‘it’s not the position, but the disposition.’ That really spoke to me because it’s not about position of power, it’s about being in the position to help others.”
A first sergeant is an important tool to the commander of any unit; by being able to take care of those in the unit, they ensure Airmen are mission-ready at all times.
“Our primary purpose is to monitor and ensure the health, morale and welfare of all assigned personnel and their families,” said Master Sgt. Tonya Poole, 613th Air Operations Center, 56th Air Communications Squadron first sergeant. “My absolute favorite thing about being a first sergeant is helping and influencing people. Nothing is more rewarding than helping an Airman overcome a challenging situation and then watching that Airman excel in his or her career.”
As the symposium came to a close, new friendships were made, and international relationships were built and strengthened. This event left those who attended with additional tools in their kit to use and pass on to future generations of airmen throughout the region.