Civilian first sergeant aims to strengthen resilience

  • Published
  • By Airman Raina Dale
  • JBER Public Affairs

The duties of Department of Defense civilian employees, as well as their mental health, can often be overlooked in the military world, but when a civilian first sergeant comes into play, it’s a game changer.

Adam Hooven, a Community Resilience Coordinator assigned to the 773rd Force Support Squadron on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, is the first civilian first sergeant in the Pacific Air Forces. The primary duty of an enlisted first sergeant – which Hooven previously was – is taking care of Airmen. They are the link between the squadron and the commander consisting of all matters concerning enlisted members. They also deal with on-base dorms, sponsorship, handing out awards, and enforcing disciplinary actions. However, a civilian first sergeant is a unique position that focuses solely on the morale and well-being of the unit – without implementing disciplinary consequences and performing other additional duties.

Hooven realized early on that he had a knack for helping people. He found people felt comfortable confiding in him about personal and work matters, explained Hooven. It came in handy when he served as a first sergeant in the United States Air Force.

“As you gain more rank, you gain that responsibility. You take on that supervisory role, so I kind of morphed into it,” said Hooven. “I like meeting a lot of people from different cultures. I get to learn a lot about the different areas and things that people are interested in.”

When offered this position with the 773rd FSS, Hooven’s initial thought was that he’d be doing similar things as when he was a first sergeant. This included responding to situations at any moment, said Hooven.

But this role was different. The newly formed 773rd FSS was looking for someone – specifically a civilian – who could increase morale, advocate for employees, and keep retention rates high.

“We quickly found out that civilians have many of the same issues and problems at work and in their personal lives as many of the military members,” said Joseph Dyson, director of the 773rd FSS. “However, we did not have the staff to work with all 641 of our members and each of their specific issues. So we fought hard to have this position created at JBER and we know that it will pay dividends in the long run. We are already seeing positive changes in our squadron due to Mr. Hooven’s presence.”

“As a military member, we need [them], so [civilians] are the continuity piece – it's the uniformed person who would be going to war. It's not going to be the civilian. However, when the uniformed person's gone, the families who are left behind, someone's got to keep stuff going, and it's going to be a handful of military and then a lot of the civilians,” Hooven said.

The responsibilities of a civilian can be just as stressful and weighty as those of a military member, and civilian DOD employees also need resources when dealing with those stressors. That is one of the many reasons Hooven wants to ensure the well-being of the employees and intends to get to know each and every single one of them, said Hooven. 

“In FSS, our mission is the people, and while we put our blood, sweat, and tears into improving the lives of others, we sometimes fail miserably at maintaining a good work/life balance for ourselves,” Hooven concluded. “I believe having someone who does the things a first sergeant does will be huge in changing that, and hopefully I can convey our concerns to squadron and wing leadership in a way that will improve the civilian work force and make JBER more lethal than it already is.”