News: 'Top Shirt' in Wisconsin Air Guard is also tops in nation
Story by Vaughn Larson
NEW LONDON, Wis. - A senior noncommissioned officer with 11 years in the 128th Air Refueling Win, has been named the First Sergeant of the Year for the entire Air National Guard.
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Schmaling of New London, Wis., is a first sergeant assigned to the Headquarters of the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing. Unlike the Army or Marines, in the Air Force, first sergeant is a duty title rather than a rank.
"It's very humbling," Schmaling said. "It was definitely not expected. I think it's a reflection of my family, my friends and the people I'm surrounded with that support me, and that I work with. It shows that Wisconsin is a contender, a quiet competitor."
In 2010, Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Maple of the 128th Air Control Squadron was named the top senior noncommissioned officer in the entire Air National Guard.
"There are 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia that could submit one nominee for the first sergeant award," explained Command Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Cullen, the top enlisted Airman in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. "Most first sergeants are your top-notch, cream-of-the-crop people — Senior Master Sgt. Schmaling was selected as the best of the best for 2013."
Schmaling is the first assigned Wing First Sergeant in the 128th Air Refueling Wing's history, and supervises seven group or squadron first sergeants in addition to his own first sergeant duties for 60 headquarters and 120 operations personnel. He has served as the first sergeant for 80 airmen for a joint training mission with the 115th Fighter Wing and U.S. Marine Corps pilots last year at Naval Air Station Key West, and also for more than 150 people assigned to a joint task force supporting a National Science Foundation mission in Antarctica.
A military communications cabling systems craftsman, Schmaling installed the structured cabling network for the Wisconsin Air National Guard's STARBASE program in Milwaukee. He is also the first and only 128th Air Refueling Wing first sergeant to attain Community College of the Air Force professional manager certification.
After being named the Wisconsin Air National Guard's First Sergeant of the Year for 2012, Schmaling's nomination packet was reviewed by a small group of command chiefs from across the Air National Guard. Nominees were examined for primary job leadership and technical ability, self-improvement and community involvement. Other factors, such as physical fitness and accomplishments beyond the scope of their job, were also considered.
Cullen said Schmaling possessed a high degree of integrity and character, essential traits to be an effective first sergeant.
"He's a very self-motivated individual and committed to helping his commander, the enlisted force and the state, any way he can," Cullen said. "I couldn't be happier for Mike. He deserves the recognition for his dedication to duty."
Maj. Gen. Donald P. Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin, agreed.
"I am very proud of Senior Master Sgt. Schmaling," Dunbar said. "His selection as the Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year is exceptional, especially when you consider the quality of today's Air National Guard. It's a privilege to serve with leaders like Mike."