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ANG ‘shirt’ at Biddle integrates inclusion with experience, education, spirituality

A woman in an Air Force uniform holds up a patch with the first sergeant rank.

Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes, 111th Medical Group First Sergeant, displays her first sergeant patch on April 14, 2021 at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Maynes chose to rise through the trials testing her military community and became a key member on the 111th Attack Wing's diversity council, which aims to illuminate differences, experiences and beliefs so Airmen can be aware of, understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each member. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Wilfredo Acosta)

A woman stands with her hands on hips in an Air Force uniform.

Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes, 111th Medical Group First Sergeant, poses for a photo at Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, April 14, 2021. Maynes, who recently graduated from the Air Force First Sergeant Academy, is also a key member on the 111th Attack Wing diversity council, which aims to illuminate differences, experiences and beliefs so airmen are aware of, understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each member. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Wilfredo Acosta)

Award presentation in dress blues.

Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes, 111th Medical Group First Sergeant, receives a certificate during her graduation from the AF First Sergeant Academy on March 19, 2021. (Air National Guard courtesy of Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes)

Group Photo dress blues.

Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes, 111th Medical Group First Sergeant, poses with other first sergeants graduating from the AF First Sergeant Academy on March 19, 2021. (Air National Guard photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Natasha Maynes)

BIDDLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Pa. --

Biddle Air National Guard Base, Pa. -- Airmen morale, welfare and conduct describe the focus of an Air Force first sergeant. And while 111th Medical Group First Sergeant Natasha Maynes stands for those values, her personal principles remain paramount while donning the diamond – and she keeps it simple.

It’s about helping people. All the people.

Even before assuming the first sergeant role, her mantra of helping people was apparent to members of the 111th Attack Wing here.

Last year saw many cultural and societal challenges within the military and civilian communities. Social injustices, racial divide, gender inequality and a world-wide health crisis challenged the U.S., its neighborhoods and the Air National Guard in unprecedented ways.

Maynes chose to rise through the trials testing her military community and became a key member on the Wing’s diversity council, which aims to illuminate differences, experiences and beliefs so Airmen can be aware of, understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each member.

“I pull my Airmen to the side, ask them about themselves, see how they’re doing,” said Maynes. “I want to change the mindset and narrative of what Airmen think a first sergeant does. It’s not just discipline. I want Airmen to know I care, I’m here for them.”

Genuine, caring, knowledgeable and skilled, Maynes makes a model leader. These traits were meticulously molded during 18 years of experience, education and faith while serving as an enlisted Airman.

Experience matters, but personality is paramount

An effective first sergeant requires experience, not only to know right from wrong, but to know how to communicate with their Airmen.

“A first sergeant is held to the highest standard of non-commissioned officers,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Zarilla, the 111th Attack Wing first sergeant. “They epitomize the core values. You [sic] should know some of their background, feel like you know them personally. They should’ve been great supervisors before transitioning into the role.

“And they should build relationships with Airmen, so they feel comfortable coming to them at any time.”

Maynes checks these boxes. Her authoritative-but-approachable manner made her a standout during selection.

“When you see her in her uniform, she’s as sharp as can be,” said Zarilla. “She’s professional, she’s a great listener and offers great advice; and she’s fantastic with her Airmen. There is a reason she was selected.”

Zarilla credited Maynes’s military career for the aforementioned attributes; but he also noted that her personal nature certainly helped her develop as a consummate professional.

Education as a component of diversity

Due to money, family obligations, travel or time, not all Airmen have the opportunity to attend a formal college or university. Maynes ensures her Airmen understand that education is more than a degree program and being educated doesn’t require student-loan debt.

The Air National Guard makes training and education readily available to its members, and Maynes took full advantage of these military-hosted prospects.

A lifelong learner, she attended several schools to strengthen her knowledge and skillsets. Along with honing her leadership and technical skills, those training courses assisted her in becoming a trusted advisor to the Wing commander in her role as a first sergeant.

Encouraging Airmen to embrace military education has become one of her guiding pillars.

“I always push military education and training opportunities and encourage my Airmen to see what their jobs actually involve,” said Maynes.

She believes that military schools, temporary-duty assignments and training opportunities assist traditional Airmen—who serve in a military status one weekend a month—remain plugged into the military mission and mindset.

“Especially in the Guard, people tend to get too busy for military courses when trying to juggle their lives alongside a part-time military career,” said Maynes. “But it’s good to go to those schools, and those trainings. That’s what helps our traditional Airmen see the big picture and be reminded of why they come here and that what they do is important to the mission.”

Spirituality as a litmus test for balance

Speaking of juggling, Maynes has developed a method for that, too.

Between serving in a first sergeant role, her full-time position in the 111th Attack Wing’s finance office and as a key member of the unit’s diversity council – faith is her method to balancing it all.

“I am a very spiritual person and I rely heavily on that to balance dual hatting,” said Maynes. “I knew going into this new role [as first sergeant] it wouldn’t be easy, but my spiritual resilience lets me know I can get it done and help people in the process.”

While Maynes doesn’t promote any single feature of spirituality, she encourages spiritual wellness as a critical aspect of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.

Comprehensive Airman Fitness is the Air Force method for members to remain resilient by focusing on the well-being and care for self, one another and families. Information on this program can be found at, https://www.acc.af.mil/Home/Comprehensive-Airman-Fitness/

Strength through diversity, not controversy

“Diversity and inclusion is understanding everyone is different, it’s ok to be different, but it is not ok to treat them different,” said Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Hackert, the 111th Communications Flight knowledge and information manager, who aided with building the Air National Guard’s human resource advisor program. “Everyone’s got a seat, now we have to learn to work together. We have to point out the barriers and break them down so we can help each other move forward.”

Maynes looks forward to playing an active part in helping all Airmen and the mission move forward.

Her two-fold approach to ushering strength through inclusion –as a first sergeant and member of the diversity council—mirrors her own background: well-earned experience, proactively sought education and a strong faith.

The Wing’s diversity council amplifies Mayne’s work in affording all Airmen the same opportunity to succeed.

“The best way I can help my Airmen is by being the best example I can be for them, and by supporting and being there for all of them,” said the new first sergeant.

Because after all, for Maynes, her modestly stated but ambitious objective remains rooted in four words: help all the people. And if any Air Guardsman can accomplish such a mission, Maynes just may be the one able to do so.