A first sergeant's worst nightmare
By Chief Master Sgt. Ron Blietz, 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
/ Published August 15, 2006
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
A first sergeant's life is all about taking care of the troops, whether it's in a good way or in a not so good way. Over time they become part of our family. We have signed up for the job to deal with personal and professional issues that in one way or another affect our troops.
As shirts, we often deal with financial problems, domestic violence and alcohol related incidents, and many times we have the opportunity to recognize great accomplishments of our squadron members. Most of the ways we solve issues are through experiences we've had in the past or through help from fellow first sergeants who may have experienced the issues at one time or another.
Being a first sergeant is the most rewarding job I could ever have but it can also be one of the most saddening jobs. I don't believe any of us are prepared to face what happens to a squadron and family when a member within your squadron dies for whatever reason. Since my arrival to the base one year ago, the 4th EMS has lost four valuable members of the squadron.
From the moment we get a call telling us we have lost one of our military members, everything becomes turmoil. There are numerous agencies and senior leaders involved in gathering all the facts of the fatality. The squadron commander will give an initial squadron briefing soon after we are notified to give all the information available to the flight members and friends.
The first few days after a tragedy, the squadron is at a complete loss at how this could have happened. Many questions are asked and many go unanswered. A memorial is planned by the squadron, and usually the commander and first sergeant attend the funeral with the family at the member's home of record.
During the first few days and weeks, people close to the member take time to think and realize they are not invincible, life is precious, and no one should ever have to pass away suddenly. They become safer in everything they do, whether on duty or off.
After awhile many of us become complacent in our thoughts of safety, and believe an accident of whatever kind will never happen to us, myself included. We become more and more secure in pushing the limits a little more until possibly the next tragedy occurs.
The reason I am writing this is not to preach safety but to ask everyone to always remember you are not invincible, and accidents do happen whether they are the fault of the member or someone else. I have had the unfortunate experience of losing 10 members of my past and present squadrons; every single time it is the worst nightmare ever to be imagined.
The pain the squadron, family, and friends go through is life long, and we all hope and pray that no one should ever have to die from a senseless or sudden death.