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First Sergeant Duty
What is expected of you and what you should do to prepare.
MSG Bertram F. Vaughan
The first sergeant's role in the Army is one that is time honored and rich in custom and tradition. The assumption of 1SG duty is a job that bears no comparison. The duties of the 1SG are so vast that one manual could not hold all of the information required to fulfill the job.
The primary duties of the first sergeant have changed very little since the days of the Revolution. Gen von Steuben described the duties of the first sergeant as:
A 35 day First Sergeant Course is taught at Ft. Bliss, TX, under the auspices of The United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. This course is quite fast paced and is designed for first time First Sergeants. Several posts offer a 5 day
Commander/First Sergeant Orientation Course for familiarization with the local policies and procedures.
First sergeants must have a high level of competency, energy, motivation, and be able to communicate effectively. The first sergeant promotes enlisted welfare, morale, and health issues and assists the commander in maintaining discipline, standards of conduct, and provides guidance on matters of leadership, military justice, and customs and courtesies. A first sergeant must be exemplary in professional conduct and appearance.
You will need the total support from your family. If your wife/husband does not like to be awakened at night when the phone rings, don't get into this job. This job will demand more time away from your family. Along with normal duty hours, the first sergeant is on call 24 hours a day and should expect long and irregular duty hours.
If you are motivated by the challenge of personal and professional managerial growth this could be the job for you. If you are willing to deal with real people, real issues, and refine your counseling skills, this could be the job for you. If you are willing to work case after case of negative issues, only to help and occasionally make a difference with that one individual, this could be the job for you. These types of intrinsic rewards will carry you through and give you what it
takes to be a first sergeant.
The Interview: Although the Department of the Army (DA) assigns E8s to units, the CDR and CSM decide who will be 1SGs. After interviewing numerous commanders and CSMs, some of the traits and qualities expected of 1SGs are:
1) Desire and motivation: The individual must want to be a 1SG or they may prove to be a detriment to the unit.
2) Integrity: Integrity must be beyond reproach. Commanders and soldiers must be able to trust the 1SG and know that if they have to talk to the 1SG, they can.
3) Leadership: A strong 1SG will serve as a good mentor. Soldiers will want to do things like the 1SG if he or she is "Leading the Way." Time should be made to share experiences with young leaders to make them better NCOs.
4) Dedication to duty: The 1SG must develop a system so that all missions get accomplished. This can mean starting before the duty day and completing it after duty. The 1SG must also check on training to ensure that the commander's intent is being met.
5) Tactical knowledge: No longer is there a field first sergeant or field soldiers, just soldiers. Field training actually starts in the garrison area and can determine your success in the field, i.e. Sergeants Time Training. In the field, the 1SG must be able to spot check positions or maneuver with an element to strengthen the leadership.
6) Counseling development: The 1SG must teach platoon sergeants how to do their job and how to develop their subordinate NCOs.
7) Study the books: The job of the 1SG is multi-faceted and complex. Regulations change often and you should stay abreast of the updates.
8) Not afraid to talk to the commander: The 1SG is the company's senior enlisted advisor and must be able to talk to him or her on their behalf so that the commander does not do anything that might be detrimental to the soldiers or the mission.
9) Standard setter: When soldiers see the 1SG out doing PT, they push themselves that much more. The 1SG must lead from the front and set the standard not only in uniform appearance and on the APFT, but in off duty conduct as well. Upholding the 7 Army values is essential to unit cohesion.
10) Time management: Develop a schedule. Allow yourself time to check your email messages without tying yourself to your desk, check on soldiers and the unit daily operations, and allow time for CSM/1SG meetings.
11) UCMJ: Do what you know is right and make the appropriate recommendation for punishment.
Commanders also expect things from the first sergeant:
1) Support the CSM.
2) Handle all soldier problems and keep the commander informed.
3) Make sure instructions are followed and tasks are completed.
I've brought out some key points to prepare for. This list is far from complete to accomplish all of the tasks associated
with first sergeant duties. Several lessons will be taught by the CSM while many others will be taught by experience on the job.
I would like to express my thanks to the following individuals who gave of their time in allowing me to interview them: LTC Haggins, MAJ Lumpkins, CSM Covington, CSM Kamanski (Ret), CSM McKinney, and MSG Feazelle.
(Current at the date of publication.)MSG Vaughan is the Battalion Operations Sergeant, S3, 1-174th Infantry Brigade, Fort Drum, NY
Copyright© MSG Bertram F. Vaughan