'Diamonds' help raise Edwards' bar

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- They are here to provide a focal point of assistance for Airmen in need, set and maintain military standards and correct recalcitrant Airmen if need be. 

They are the first sergeants of Edwards. 

"The biggest part of the job is getting out and meeting our Airmen," said Master Sgt. Bobby Herron, 412th Operations Group first sergeant. "That's when you find out many of the issues that the Airmen are dealing with." 

In addition to being on call 24 hours a day, the first sergeant has to meet certain criteria just to be selected for the position. They have to be interviewed by their command chief to ensure they are a good fit for the job. They endure an Enlisted Performance Report review to check for any past problems or complaints. They also have to make sure their career field can release them for the first sergeant duty. 

"The application process can be very involved," Sergeant Herron said. "But it was all worth it." 

First sergeants are required to be at least a master sergeant to wear a diamond on their sleeve, which is why they are sometimes referred to as "diamonds." However, technical sergeants may be selected to hold the additional-duty first sergeant position, which involves many of the same responsibilities as a "diamond." 

In either case, the first sergeants' main responsibility is taking care of their Airmen, Sergeant Herron said. It isn't a task that is always easy. 

"Being a first sergeant is the most demanding, time consuming job I have ever had in my 20 years of service," said Master Sgt. Harold Greene, 95th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant. "In the same respect, it has also been the most rewarding job because I get to meet and help so many people." 

The first "shirt's" job isn't over at the end of the day. Often, they are in the office or on the phone during the weekend and can be called upon for help in the middle of the night, Sergeant Herron said. 

"Being torn from my family to sort out a problem that has occurred with one of my Airmen is just a part of the job," Sergeant Herron said. "It is a stressful job that requires a lot of time away from my family." 

In addition, the first sergeant doesn't care for just one Airman. They may be responsible for squadrons, groups and even wings of Airmen. 

The diamond's role in the aid and discipline of Airmen stems largely from their immediate access to commanders and supervisors as well as their connections to helpful base organizations. 

"This is a very important position because I am a single point of contact for people who need help," Sergeant Herron said. 

The first sergeants are bestowed the tools of communication and immediate contacts with various base organizations to handle any issues that may arise with their Airmen. Some of which may include financial issues, marital problems, deaths in the family, disciplinary situations and even separation issues stemming from deployments. 

If the first shirt can't fix the problem, they have all of the tools to get the job done, whether referring the Airman to aid, coordinating solutions through various organizations or using the chain of command to correct a mistake. 

However, the first shirt is also responsible for correcting the little things such as weight issues with their Airmen, physical training scores and basic regulation issues such as Airmen talking on their cell phone while walking, uniforms that need ironing and boots that may need shining. 

Sergeant Herron said the most challenging part of his job is calling someone out in front of their peers for something they need to correct. 

He said he doesn't enjoy doing it but does so because he has standards to maintain. 

Sergeant Herron also stated that he has to look his best and keep himself in check because as a "diamond" he needs to lead by example. 

"The main point I would like people to know about our job as first shirts is that we aren't out to get them; we are out to help them," Sergeant Herron said. "Whether that takes correcting a bad habit they have picked up or being there for them during the hard times people is our business, and we will bend over backwards to help them."