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TLR first sergeants adapt efforts to maintain Airmen resilience

first sergeant holds mask

U.S. Air Force first sergeants are tasked with providing a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality-of-life issues within his or her organization at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Team Little Rock, new stressors are coming up in Airmen’s lives allowing for first sergeants to collaborate together in an effort to maintain basewide resiliency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The first sergeant diamond symbolizes a senior NCO who is committed to providing a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality-of-life issues within his or her organization.

Master Sgt. Matt DiPasquale, 19th Medical Group first sergeant, along with first sergeants across Team Little Rock, have been diligently adjusting their daily duties and routines in response to COVID-19.

“The role of a first sergeant looks different to everybody — no two people are the same and neither are any two squadrons,” DiPasquale said. “When you get into a new atmosphere, you could be walking into the thick of turmoil or success. Regardless of either scenario, our role is to be present, open-minded and care for our Airmen.”

COVID-19 has changed how squadrons execute their mission and altered social interaction. As a result, first sergeants recognize that Airmen are faced with new challenges.

“Natural stressors in people’s lives have changed,” DiPasquale said. “When an Airman comes in with one of these new stressors, I share it with the other first sergeants to strengthen the support we collectively provide to our Herk Nation Airmen.”

Increased travel restrictions have limited more Airmen from being unable to travel to visit their loved ones, which has been a new struggle for some. DiPasquale has found that linking Airmen with common experiences or stressors strengthens their bonds of community, allowing them to lean on one another for resiliency and support.

“Ensuring Airmen know they are cared for and supported through both their successes and challenges is important,” DiPasquale said. “People tend to get off track when they feel like they are alone – we are here for them.”

Team Little Rock first sergeants continue to work together to adjust within the dynamic environment we are faced with, providing the best support possible for our Airmen and their families.

“This virus is forcing us to evaluate our processes and find creative solutions,” said Master Sgt. Chance Wisdom, 19th Airlift Wing and 19th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant. “When I run across something that’s unique, I communicate with the other first sergeants on how I navigated the issue so every Shirt has a road map to that problem if they come across it.”

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new trials in Airmen’s personal and professional lives, the first sergeants are determined to make a difference in any way they can.

“The role we find ourselves in is the compassionate healer,” DiPasquale said. “We are the person Airmen can confide in — that is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.”