MANDA BAY, KENYA -- Military deployments can be stressful. Military deployments to a remote base in East Africa can be even more stressful. Fortunately, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Timothy Harford, first sergeant for the 475th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron located at Manda Bay, Kenya is there to assist his Airmen and tenant units and provide them with the resources needed to accomplish their mission.
A former F-15 aircraft crew chief and current first sergeant with the 159th Maintenance Squadron, Louisiana Air National Guard back home in New Orleans, Harford is the only member from his unit deployed to Manda Bay. The Manda Bay Airfield is part of a Kenyan Defense Forces military base utilized by U.S. Armed Forces to provide training and counterterrorism support to East African partners, respond to crises and protect U.S. interests in the region.
A first sergeant’s responsibilities include the readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality of life of their Airmen to ensure a mission-ready force. Harford admits that the conditions and logistics of Manda Bay does create certain challenges for a first sergeant.
“The biggest challenge has been trying to anticipate the needs that arise from being in such an austere environment and make sure that our folks have what they need and mitigating those challenges,” said Harford.
Reflecting on his time as the 475th EABS’s first sergeant, Harford plans to use the experience gained from his deployment to benefit him in the future as a first sergeant and an U.S. Air Force Senior Non-Commissioned Officer.
“This deployment has reinforced the importance of building relationships through communication,” Harford said, “Building those relationships has proven to be more important than I previously thought.”
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Calvin Hawkins, senior enlisted leader of the 475th EABS, agrees that good communication is a key asset in being a good first sergeant. Hawkins, now on his third deployment has also worn the diamond as a first sergeant in his U.S. Air Force career.
“[Harford] is a quiet professional and never passes-up an opportunity to get out and chat with our Airmen to get to know them and not just our EABS Airmen, but also the Soldiers as well,” said Hawkins. “In my 20+ years of service, I have to say he's one of the best first sergeants that I've worked with.”
Being an Air Force first sergeant requires a four-year commitment after being selected through an interview process. Selectees must attend an extensive four-week course at the First Sergeant Academy in Maxwell, Alabama. Although challenging, the reward of being a first sergeant is helping Airmen reach their full potential for mission success.