First sergeant duty is 24/7. Though it can be rewarding, it’s hard. It’s driving across town after hours to get one of your airmen out of trouble; it’s motivating others to excel in their jobs, on promotion exams, PT tests and beyond.
Soon, stepping up for that critical job won’t be voluntary. Next month, the Air Force expects to firm up plans for selecting first shirts nominated by their commands.
The Air Force has long struggled to fill first sergeant duty because it not only demands long hours, competing for promotion is tougher than for other specialties. Because of low select rates, first shirts can take a year longer to make senior master sergeant.
Meanwhile, they are pulled away from their specific career fields for three years for an extra $150 a month, which hardly covers the extra hours they put in.
What’s little recognized in the force is that airmen with first sergeant duty under their belts are selected for promotion to E-8 and E-9 at rates far superior to competitors without that experience.
Still, the Air Force should demonstrate the high value placed on first shirt duty by adding 5 percent to their promotion rates, just as is done now for undermanned specialties.
Whether they volunteer for the duty or are volun-told, first shirts deserve greater rewards for taking on such a critical job.