JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
A first sergeant provides a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale, welfare, and quality-of-life issues within an organization. For the first time, a Space Force Guardian is doing the job for RED FLAG-Alaska 21-2.
U.S. Space Force Master Sgt. Tyler Duncan is currently supporting RF-A participants as a first sergeant.
Duncan crossed over to the Space Force in February 2021, but the job of the first shirt stayed pretty much the same.
"I am just an avenue to funnel all the information to all the units participating here," the 17-year veteran said. "My role is making sure the unit is looked after."
While Duncan waits for a permanent U.S. Space Force assignment, he is filling the crucial position.
"You wouldn't do a RED FLAG-Alaska without a deployed forces first sergeant – it just wouldn't work," said U.S. Air Force Capt. David Sellona, 374th Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. "We already send individuals home for various reasons, and having a shirt that can focus on administration issues is very helpful, or else our mission would not get done."
RF-A is only manned to plan exercises on behalf of JBER participants. Duncan takes care of everyone else.
“When our service, joint and coalition participants arrive here to execute, our organization is not adequately staffed to effectively run the exercise alone so we require augmentation and defined command relations to facilitate successful execution,” said Air Force Lt. Col. John Fuccillo, 354th Operations Group Detachment 1 director of operations. “MSgt Duncan is a key provider of care and feeding to all our Red Flag AK participants and not just his home station unit staging out of JBER and fully embraces that if you take care of the people the mission takes care of itself.”
Before Duncan became a guardian, he joined the U.S. Air Force three years after he graduated high school in the small rural town of West Plains, Missouri, with a population of about 12,000.
"I joined in 2004 as then-ground radio to radio frequency transmission systems," Duncan said. “I became a first shirt in 2019.”
Duncan credits having an excellent command team as part of the reason he became a first sergeant.
"They rallied behind me during a difficult time where I could have easily made a long-term decision to a short-term problem," Duncan said. "They scooped me up during my lowest point until I was okay."
Because of the small gesture, he decided to pay it forward by assuming the role of being there for somebody the way he experienced with his prior leadership.
With his unique position at RF-A, Duncan makes it a point to walk around and get to know their stories. When you get to know a member, you figure out the resources or needs that best fit them, Duncan said.
"I'm the people's champ," Duncan exclaimed. "As the shirt, we are there to advocate for the members of the unit."
Working previously in a joint command, Duncan sees this exercise as a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with our international partners.
"A joint team firing on all cylinders with different perspectives is what makes us the greatest force this world has ever seen," Duncan added. "We constantly face the threat of near-peer capabilities, the linchpin that will continue to hold us together and allow us to dominate air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace is our joint capabilities."
Having a Guardian walking around the RED FLAG-Alaska building can often spark interest.
Initially, if he was unknown to Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Charles Brittain, 374th MXS Fabrication and Accessories Flight superintendent, would have done a double-take because of his uniform.
"I would ask how a space force is involved in this exercise," Brittain said. "Are they designing the exercise to include space assets? I want to talk to him – inquisitively figure out what he is doing out here."
Because Brittain knows Duncan and his role, he says that his presence makes it more of a multi-force exercise, and he is a substantial benefit to the team--to grease the wheels.
However, Duncan's bottom line is taking care of people.
"My end goal is to take care of people," Duncan said. "I want to make sure they are the best they can be every day to get after the airlift that we provide here."