U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Sara Soleki, 18th Communication Squadron first
sergeant, talks with Senior Airman Ottis West, 18th Communication Squadron
cable and antenna system technician, at Kadena Air Base, Japan on Aug. 1,
2012. Soleki visits her Airmen throughout her squadron on Wednesdays to ensure they
are being taken care of and to check in on them. (U.S. Air Force
photo/Airman 1st Class Brooke P. Beers)
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Sara Soleski accepts the 18th Wing First Sergeant of the Year Award from U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew Molloy, 18th Wing commander, during Kadena's annual awards ceremony at the Rocker NCO Club on Kadena Air Base, Japan, Feb.4, 2012. The awards were for Team Kadena and Wing level. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brooke P. Beers)
by Airman 1st Class Brooke P. Beers
18th Wing Public Affairs
8/1/2012 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The U.S. Air Force can easily be compared to a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle; it wouldn't be a whole picture if even one piece was missing.
Airmen can get absorbed into their individual jobs and easily forget about how other puzzle pieces are helping to hold them together.
"I've been a first sergeant for maintenance, security forces, the 31st Rescue Squadron and now (communications)," said Master Sgt. Sara Solecki, 18th Communications Squadron first sergeant. "All four squadrons are unique in their own way. They all contribute to the mission, but you don't get to see that from sitting in the clinic."
Solecki was a medic for 15 years and worked in the 18th Medical Group's Family Practice section before becoming a first sergeant.
"A medic's job is to take care of people, make them feel better and do what you can to help them with their situation," said Solecki. "But as you go higher up in ranks, the less you get to interact with the patients and you do more administrative things; you're away from the helping type of environment, which is what I liked."
Thankfully, Solecki had a first sergeant at the time that was adamant about being involved in the squadron and did everything to help everyone out. Solecki decided then that being a first sergeant would be the perfect way to be able to stay involved in helping people.
"In Airman Leadership School or NCO Academy you meet new people and learn about what they do, but you don't really get to experience it," she said. "It's neat to see the Air Force from different angles."
New first sergeants are not assigned to squadrons close to the career field they've come to know. They are taken out of their area of expertise for three years, with the possibility to extend for three more.
A first sergeant's job is to help resolve issues that could affect the readiness of enlisted members, prepare Airmen to deploy and award or discipline Airmen when needed.
"I like it when we give stripes out or when the Airmen in the squadron get awards," Solecki said about her favorite part of being a first sergeant. "It's nice when you have Airmen that have problems and you are able to step in and help to fix the situation."
A first sergeant is a special duty. To apply, Airman must at least be a master sergeant and submit a package. Some bases even have a shadow program for interested senior NCOs who can follow first sergeant for a period of time to see if it's something they would truly be interested in.
Solecki, winner of Kadena's First Sergeant of the Year award, says the job is all about team work.
"Yes, the award has my name on it, but it's a reflection of everything we all did. From the squadrons to the other first shirts. We solely cannot do everything, "she said. "Everything I did that was listed on the award package was not done by myself, but by the other first sergeants, undershirts and Airmen. It wasn't anything that I did, it was what we did."