1st Sergeant Spotlight: Operations running smoothly with new first sergeant

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- The command post superintendent with the 129th Rescue Wing here was recently selected to assume duties as first sergeant for the 129th Operations Group.

Master Sgt. Ronald Biggs, the new 129th OG first sergeant, has been assigned to carry out the responsibility, accountability, and discipline of a first sergeant after graduating from First Sergeant Academy at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Montgomery, Ala., July 2009.

First sergeant is not a rank, but a special duty held by a senior enlisted member who reports directly to the unit commander and is responsible for the morale, welfare, and conduct of all the enlisted members in their squadron.

"Each career field has given me so many amazing experiences, but one of the things that I've said from the beginning, is that I was going to put on a diamond," said Sergeant Biggs. "It was something I said I wanted to do, but when the time was right. I've had a lot of great mentors along the way, and worked under great commanders that really taught me a lot about the Air Force."

Beginning his active duty career over 14 years ago as a bomb-navigation systems apprentice, Sergeant Biggs has gained an array of knowledge and experience with the workings of the Air Force and is now in the position to help others, he said.

In 2003, Sergeant Biggs joined the California Air National Guard and was put on active duty orders to work as the deputy command historian with the 1st Air Force stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. On a visit back to California he met with guardsmen working on the counter drug mission here. After hearing about the mission Sergeant Biggs applied, got the job and joined the 129th RQW.

As a traditional guardsman, Sergeant Biggs left his job at the command post in 2009 to fill the vacant first sergeant spot in the 129th OG, he said.

"There hasn't been an ops first sergeant in a few years," Sergeant Biggs said. "When I came in, there wasn't someone here to give me the turn over and say what's been going on. I couldn't make it three feet out of my office before hearing 'Shirt, do you have a minute?'"

The first sergeant job doesn't stop here. Sergeant Biggs spends 15 to 20 hours a week at home working on correspondence with his troops, he said.

"The hardest one is when you get the email that says we had a member's parent die when they were deployed," said Sergeant Biggs. "The whole thing about first sergeant is people first. There's always face time with questions like 'how are you doing,' and 'how's' the family?' It's a lot of earning that trust, which is hard to do in the beginning."

"As far as my own personal ideas of leadership, I follow the advice given to me by a past mentor," he said. "This is sort of a philosophy I stuck with; feed your troops, make sure you give them a break, and every once in a while fall on the sword for them."

Following these values, Sergeant Biggs believes that staying connected, learning from one another (both junior and senior positions), and making sure that a leader takes care of their troops, the better the mission gets completed.

"As long as you're honest and up front with me I will go to bat for you when I know you're in the right, but I've got to have that trust between us," said Sergeant Biggs. "For example, getting time off is something everyone cares about. Say you've come out and worked all these extra hours and days, then ask for time off to do something, I mean sure, you've worked hard enough for me, and you showed it. I've never had a problem doing that."

One of the things Sergeant Biggs has committed to as a first sergeant is to mentor at least three people at any one time.

"I want to be the first sergeant that people can say 'I know I can come to him,'" Sergeant Biggs said. "I don't have to know the answer, a great leader doesn't have to have all the answers, a leader just has to know enough to know where to find them. As long as you can do that, that's all part of being successful."

Sergeant Biggs, along with other first sergeants throughout the 129th RQW, have also opened their doors to Airmen in units that are currently lacking first sergeants. The goal is to let everyone know that first sergeants are here to help, Sergeant Biggs said.

"The first time you stop thinking about people first and start thinking about yourself, then you've lost focus," said Sergeant Biggs. "This is one of those jobs where you will see your satisfaction and reward when the people you're helping get what they need. You don't expect a thank you; they just know to come to you now."