First Sergeant duties ramp up during pandemic
By Staff Sgt. Paige Yenke, 926th Wing
/ Published May 08, 2020
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
Reserve Citizen Airmen across the nation have been uniquely affected as COVID-19 restrictions have impacted their civilian job security.
For the 926th Wing’s, 706th Fighter Squadron, the impact of the stay-at-home order in Nevada was felt immediately. Within the first 72 hours the 706th FS already had 20 percent of their enlisted force affected financially by civilian job insecurity.
As the 706th FS First Sergeant, it was Master Sgt. Alexander Turner’s job to take immediate action to ensure his Airmen were taken care of with food security, financial readiness and resiliency.
“I needed to make sure people would keep having a roof over their head, have food to eat and had some sort of financial support to keep utilities on or continue to pay bills,” he said.
Turner said heavy involvement from 926th WG programs like the First Sergeant Council and Airman and Family Readiness have been instrumental in alleviating some of these hardships.
With the help of active duty, the First Sergeant Council set up a food drive to get Airmen boxes of food, including perishable and non-perishable items, while A&FR has been updating lists of resources available to all members of the wing.
“We’re really checking in with one another, figuring out what’s the pulse of how impacted we are and the way forward,” Turner said. “What is our plan? How do we lead our Airmen out of this?”
Financial readiness continues to be a concern due to the number of people affected by furloughs, being employed without hours or laid off completely where they have no source of income.
“Those individuals are telling us right now that they’re okay, so we’re tracking them weekly,” he said.
Wing leadership has also been able to get some of those members on orders in cases where they have a specialty or skill set that the active duty needed.
Turner has been amazed by the immediate response of camaraderie and teamwork across the wing. Many airmen who had lost work still had other members in mind when offered assistance.
“I would offer them boxes of food and they would say no, I don’t need to it. Give it to somebody else,” he said.
Members have also jumped to offer a helping hand when someone is in need. When a mother couldn’t find enough formula for her kid, Turner and another Senior Non-Commissioned Officer banded a group of people to scour the stores around the city to help out.
“We were able to find a three-month supply and it happened like that, within 36 hours from the request,” he said.
Outside of being a first shirt, Turner specializes in epidemiology and public health. He has used this knowledge to benefit his people by working with a local company to have masks made. Turner handpicked the material and is using his special duty pay to purchase them.
“They actually have the same level of filtration capability as the N95 masks,” he said.
While Turner continues to take upmost care of his people, he is also using his expertise in public health to volunteer with the state on a special task force for COVID-19. Stay tuned for part two.