51 WSA Airmen 'Shadow their Shirt'

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Throughout their career, Airmen have the opportunity to apply for a special duty outside of their enlisted specialty.

Master Sgt. Jessica McWain, 51st Fighter Wing Staff Agencies and Comptroller Squadron first sergeant, opened her doors and gave Airmen the opportunity to shadow her for a day to experience firsthand what a first sergeant does on a daily basis.

"I have realized throughout my career that often times we have a misconception of what a job or position is like and what a certain environment will be like," McWain said. "Allowing Airmen to shadow me and sit on the other side of the desk helps them to understand what I do and know if being a shirt is something they really want to do."

Some of the duties of a first sergeant are to provide the commander with a mission-ready enlisted force, to execute the mission and remain vigilant for and move to resolve issues that, left unchecked, would impact the readiness of enlisted members. They also advise the commander on a wide range of topics including the health, esprit de corps, discipline, mentoring and recognition of all assigned enlisted members.

McWain decided to implement "Shadow a Shirt", after having two senior NCOs fill in for her as first sergeant during her mid-tour.

"I had them shadow me before I left to understand my role and know what to anticipate so they would know what my expectation was for sitting in my seat while I was gone," she said. "That helped me realize that there are other people who might be interested in seeing what my job is about."

McWain feels that opening her doors for Airmen has a dual purpose.

"I hope that this will open the Airmen's eyes and give them a better understanding of what a first sergeant does, and maybe even give them the drive to become a first sergeant," McWain said.

Tech. Sgt. Alejandra Chavez, 51st FW Equal Opportunity NCO in charge, is one of the Airmen who shadowed McWain.

"During my time shadowing, I learned that it is a very fast paced job with some similarities to my current job," Chavez said. "For example, you could come in with the intent of performing certain jobs, but at the end of the day you never get around to it because there was always somebody who needed help or something that needed to be taken care of. Your day does not start at 7:30 a.m., the day starts as soon as somebody needs something."

Chavez's passion for becoming a first sergeant began as a junior Airman when she had the opportunity to commission.

"I spoke to one of my mentors, and he asked me, 'Do you want to lead people or do you want to lead missions?'" Chavez said. "Since I wanted to lead people, he said to stay enlisted because as a senior NCO, you have access to our greatest asset, which is our Airmen."

Chavez hopes to become a first sergeant and make a difference in the lives of her future Airmen.

"I believe that as a first sergeant you have the greatest impact with the Airmen, and have the best contact with the enlisted personnel who tend to be the ones who carry the mission more heavily," Chavez said.