Story by SSgt John Wilkes on 08/05/2018The position of first sergeant is unique. In the Air Force, the first sergeant is a special duty, reporting directly to the squadron commander on matters of morale, welfare and conduct. They are also the principal advisor to the commander about their Airmen.
Master Sgt. Kristy Copic, the 180th Fighter Wing Medical Group's first sergeant, knows how important her job is and the impact she can have on Airmen, especially during deployments.
"I knew the job was going to be difficult, but I wanted the opportunity to serve and help people," said Copic, the 180FW First Sergeant of the Year for 2017.
According to Copic, that is what the first sergeants, also known as "first shirts," are here for - to make sure their Airmen are taken care of, so they are able to take care of the mission.
"Airmen have come up to me at home and during deployments and pulled me aside to talk about problems they are having, whether personal or simple administrative issues," Copic said. "As their first shirt, I have to make sure I stop and take care of whatever problem comes up."
For example, emergency leave is a key function first sergeants manage in order to help their Airmen. If an Airman's immediate family member has an emergency situation while they are away, the Airman is able to reach out to the first shirt to help coordinate that Airman's return home.
Copic has gone on many deployments throughout her career from Iraq to Hawaii. In the past year, she has deployed, in various roles, to North Carolina, Hawaii, Texas and California.
In North Carolina, Copic served as the first sergeant during the Smoky Mountain Medical Innovative Readiness Training, which provided medical, dental, ophthalmologic and veterinary services to more than 5,800 people in underserved areas.
During the deployment, Copic coordinated morale, welfare and readiness events for hundreds of service members in various branches of service.
In Hawaii, Copic served as first shirt during a deployment to Tripler Army Medical Center. Under her guidance, 180FW Airmen were able to complete more than 1,650 training hours.
"Sgt. Copic does a great job taking care of Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Constance McGuire, medical group superintendent at the 180FW. "She is always available and ready. She is professional, committed and models what a great leader should be."
Copic considers herself lucky to be the first sergeant of the medical group.
"They make it easy," she said. "It helps when you work with a truly great group of Airmen."
In addition to serving as first shirt while on military duty, Copic is employed fulltime with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, in the national exercise division and works to develop exercises at the state, local, tribal and territorial level.
She has been on multiple deployments in her role with FEMA, deploying to California to support wildfire relief efforts and to Texas, in support of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Copic has been able to apply the knowledge and experience gained in her role with FEMA to her role as a first sergeant at the 180th Fighter Wing.
"I feel that being in a service-oriented career field, whether it is military duty or working with FEMA, it's very rewarding and motivating because you can see how much of an impact you can have," Copic said.
Copic embodies what it means to be a Citizen-Airmen, serving her fellow Airmen and community. 180FW members are active in their communities both personally and professionally, supporting hundreds of events each year and volunteering for organizations that add value to Toledo and its surrounding areas.