ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
The 2021 Air Force First Sergeant of the Year award has been presented to a master sergeant in the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
Master Sgt. Crystal Bateman, 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group first sergeant, was presented the award by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Joanne Bass, Aug. 27, 2022.
First sergeants are a dedicated focal point for all readiness, health, morale, welfare and quality of life issues within their organizations. At a home station or in expeditionary environments, their primary responsibility is to build and maintain a mission-ready force.
Bateman believes taking care of people is her calling.
“Becoming a First Sergeant has been my dream job since I was an Airman 1st class a little over 18 years ago,” she said. “Seeing how they cared for Airmen and in doing so, it fueled mission accomplishment. That was just so intriguing to me.”
Looking back through her career, Bateman said being a training manager helped to prepare her to become a first sergeant.
“That’s where I came up with my leadership philosophy of providing unbiased genuine care, empathy and respect to all,” she said. “My Air Force specialty code offered a plethora of unconventional leadership opportunities due to our broad scope of duties. As such, I really began to see my passion for people/mentorship take shape and flourish.”
Bateman said there isn’t a difference between supporting military and civilians.
“I do not view this role any differently from being a military-only first sergeant because the heart of the matter is taking care of people,” she said. “It’s just that simple; everything else is something we can learn and workaround.
“Given my background, working at the depot level still gives me goosebumps from my supply management days,” she continued. “In this case, the dynamic mission that is maintenance, the people I get to work with, taking care of them, and watching how they get after the mission it is an incredible experience. I am truly living the dream.”
According to Bateman, 2021 was a year of challenges.
“Most in my unit know that it was an incredibly rough year for me,” she said. “From cancer scares to a family that suffered from young family members being sexually assaulted culminated by a suicide it was too much.
“I was depressed and decided to seek help,” she continued. “That was the best decision I could have made for my life.”
Bateman’s leadership and first sergeants rallied to provide support.
“My family, friends, command team, various mentors and first sergeants all over the Air Force really supported me during those difficult times while I recovered,” she said. “My faith allowed me to persevere and never give up.”
Being recognized for this prestigious award was breathtaking for Bateman.
“It is a blessing and means so much to me that my leadership thought enough of what I bring to the team to nominate me,” she said. “It is an honor to be able to represent my family, my unit and my peers this way. It is a monumental milestone for any first sergeant to be nominated for this award, but let alone to win is truly astonishing.”
Bateman continues to look for ways to improve herself.
“I was selected to attend the U.S. Navy Senior Enlisted Academy,” she said. “It is a mixture of distance learning and has a short in-residence training course in Rhode Island.
“I am so very excited that I can still ‘Shirt’ here while learning more about serving in a joint environment at my own pace, but still physically get to attend to learn more about how we can all partner together to really get after the mission,” she continued.
Bateman said it takes a community to develop someone.
“I can say that in whatever capacity I am assigned, being of service to people will be my primary focus,” she said. “I am very optimistic about the opportunities to come and continue leading in our Air Force. Who knows, I may be a command chief one day.
"That said, I will continue to pay forward every mentorship moment, supportive call or hug given, and genuine care I have received to our Airmen.”