First sergeant reflects on her year at Kunsan
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- For Master Sgt. Jennifer Wampler, her year with the 8th Operations Group was the greatest experience she could have asked for as a first sergeant.
Listening to her talk about her Airmen, it's obvious she's proud. Watching her interact with them, it's obvious she cares. Hearing the questions she asks them, it's obvious she has taken the first sergeant adage "My job is people" to heart.
"How's your son doing? When is his next checkup?" "How is your shoulder feeling today?" "I'm glad that emergency leave situation got figured out for you."
A medic by trade and with experience as a maintenance squadron first sergeant, Wampler wasn't sure what to expect from the operations world.
"I didn't know what operations were responsible for ... I just knew that jets got in the air," she said. "I know now they are the pulse of any base. There are so many facets the OG encompasses. It's such a dynamic mission and the Airmen are always prepping for any possibility.
"Knowing the 8th OG Airmen here have made me more proud of what I do," she added. "It's amazing how much work they do."
Although Wampler was at first overwhelmed by having to immerse herself in the hugely different mindset of the 8th OG, she threw herself into it.
She knows the details of all 14 Air Force specialty codes that fall within the group and how each contributes to Kunsan's never-ending "Take the Fight North" mission.
She knows the frequency at which airfield management measures snow, the intricacies of radar controllers' schedules and the limitations of Airmen on flying hours.
Being at Kunsan, a remote short tour where Airmen aren't accompanied by families, gave Wampler even more time and reason to get to know her people so well.
"The operations tempo at Kunsan is so high, but because there are no outside distractions I've been able to really focus on the Airmen," said Wampler. "We're unaccompanied here and so your people become your family for a year. It's all about forming great relationships with the Airmen and getting to know them better."
During a last-day visit to her units, her interactions showed those relationships.
"She is the best first sergeant I've had in my six-year career," said Staff Sgt. Layne Medlock, 80th Fighter Squadron aviation resource management NCO in charge.
"Without her, I wouldn't have made it through the last four months in this position," said Medlock, who was pulled to fill a higher-ranking slot when a master sergeant was reassigned because of humanitarian reasons. "The word 'approachable' more than sums it up. I called her at least weekly needing help and she always came through."
A fellow senior NCO agreed, saying Wampler's involvement during her time here was a big help.
"She is everywhere all the time," said Master Sgt. Aniya Lamyotte, 8th Operations Support Squadron radar approach control assistant chief controller. "'Involved' is an understatement. She goes as far to know all our operating initials, which don't correspond with our actual names.
"During our initial meeting, I told her to expect a lot of questions from me," added Lamyotte. "As a newer senior NCO, it's good to know we have a first sergeant who will help you through anything, good or bad. It's been great having her guidance and friendship."
And for Wampler, this is what her year has been about - building a strong foundation so her Airmen know they can approach her about anything.
"I care about every single one of these people," said Wampler. "Being a good first sergeant is about being part of a good support system. I've learned so much from the OG and being a part of them has been an unforgettable experience."