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Dagger Point with Senior Master Sgt. Bill Fortenberry

  • Published
  • By Staff. Sgt. Adam Grant
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
Senior Master Sgt. Bill Fortenberry is the 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) First Sergeant. He began his almost 25 year career as an Aircraft Electrical Environmental Systems Specialist. Since then he's held many different positions in Aircraft Maintenance to include Specialist Expeditor, Flight Chief, as well as being in charge of the West Coast A-10 Demonstration team. He became a First Sergeant in February of 2009. He returned to Davis-Monthan AFB after completing First Sergeant tours at Tyndall AFB and Kunsan AB, where he won First Sergeant of the Year at both bases.

Question: What do you like about being a Numbered Air Force First Sergeant, and how is it different from squadron life?

I haven't been to a squadron or First Sergeant position I haven't liked. My job is all about people. The missions the people do change from each job, but where ever you go, life happens. I very much enjoy the people aspect of my job. I am hoping that being up at the NAF level will expand the positive influence potential that I and most First Sergeants pride themselves on.

Question: What advice do you give to all of your new inbound personnel?

This is two-fold. First, as a First Sergeant I tell them I am here to help. I have a saying, "Stomp a spark before it becomes a fire." What I mean is give me and your leadership a heads up when the problem is small and we have a much better chance of a successful resolution. Bad news does not get better with time, so come see me early. Part of that is on me as well to be approachable and to be seen, so they know they can come to me when life happens.

The other thing is Tucson is an awesome place. There is so much to do and our community support is second to none. Get out and do things. We are also 5-6 hours from pretty much anything you want to do. Take care of yourselves and take advantage of this great assignment!

Question: What is a pet peeve of yours?

Talking down to people. Rank and respect are very important things, but we are all human beings. Respect for each other should have nothing to do with stripes, bars or stars.

Question: As the Air Force continues to slim down what advice would you give to Airmen on staying competitive and being marketable to the Air Force?

Great question! The Air Force and military in general are way past cutting into the fat! They are cutting in to the bone and muscle. The Air Force can only retain the absolute best. Number one it starts with doing the basics ... showing up on time, being in regulations, do the things you are supposed to be doing. If you can't do that, you probably want to seek employment elsewhere. Then make sure you are getting your education and PME done. Don't wait until the last minute on that stuff. The final thing is be a leader and be the guy leadership can't live without. Be involved and lead professional organizations on base. The things you need to do to be successful in the Air Force are the same things you need to do on the outside. If you are doing those things, you will be successful as an Airman or a civilian.

Question: What has been your most rewarding assignment and, why?

This is a very tough question, as they have all been very rewarding. I would have to go with Kunsan AB, Republic of Korea. I have been there twice, once as a staff sergeant in maintenance and once as a First Sergeant in force support and civil engineer squadrons. Kunsan is a very unique base in that no one has their family there for the most part. People get to know each other very well, and people become very tight. The mission is right there, everyone is at the tip of the spear! I have thoroughly enjoyed every assignment I have had, but the Wolf Pack is a very special place to me.

Question: What is the most rewarding part of being a First Sergeant?

That is easy, as mentioned above; it is the people. People are the only reason we as First Sergeants have a job. I have had to deal with the best and the worst of situations. Knowing that I can use my 25 years of Air Force experience and 43 years of life experience to help another person or family out is why I love this job so much. Just like every job, it has its ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Ask almost any First Sergeant and they will tell you, we have the best job in the Air Force!