Parish earns two awards at First Sergeant Academy
By Brian Hagberg, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 29, 2015
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Graduating from the U.S. Air Force First Sergeant Academy is a major accomplishment in and of itself. Being an honor graduate puts you in the top seven percent of your class, while earning either the top graduate or commandant award really sets you apart from your peers. So what does it say if you graduate as both the top graduate and recipient of the commandant award?
Master Sgt. Zachary Parish, 50th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, recently earned both the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James C. Binnicker Top Graduate and Chief Master Sgt. Eric E. Williams Commandant Awards during First Sergeant Academy graduation Sept. 4 at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama.
"It's a rare occasion, from my experience as an Airman Leadership School instructor, for an individual to be selected as the top graduate and then also [earn] the commandant award," Parish said. "It was just a very humbling experience to be in a competitive environment where the Air Force is selecting the best of the best, and to be recognized as the best of those individuals was humbling."
"I am extremely excited to have Master Sergeant Parish as part of the 50th Security Forces Squadron leadership team," said Chief Master Sgt. John Bentivegna, 50th Space Wing command chief. "His recognition at the First Sergeant Academy speaks volumes about his character and leadership abilities, both of which are critical to wearing a Diamond."
The top graduate award is based on a combination of academic achievement, peer points and instructor points. The top peer point earner in each flight, Parish's class had eight flights of 11 Airmen each, is nominated for the commandant award. The commandant award nominees then have an interview with the commandant and the recipient is chosen based on the interview.
Parish said the interview with the commandant consisted of three questions: why do you believe your classmates nominated you for this award? If you could go back and speak to Airman Parish, what would you tell him knowing what you know now? Based on his response to the second question, he was then asked to give an example.
Parish was nominated by his classmates because he was able to share his experiences with classmates in a way that would help them be successful, he said.
"My answer [to the second question] was that I would encourage Airman Parish to say yes to every opportunity that presents itself because that could, in turn, open a door or future opportunity that I wouldn't be able to see at that time," Parish said.
He used the example of becoming an ALS instructor as one of those opportunities. Had he not taken advantage of that opportunity, he potentially would not have come to Schriever or been at the First Sergeant Academy.
"That was the example I used where I said yes I'll do this, and it created an opportunity to come here to Schriever after I was done with my tour as an ALS instructor," he said. "Then from there I was hired here to be a first sergeant. So by saying yes and kind of stepping outside of my comfort zone, I was a little hesitant I was never too comfortable being in front of an audience, [I have] an opportunity to shape and mold Airmen."
Parish's selection for First Sergeant Academy also illustrates how the Air Force Development Special Duty process can help Airmen discover hidden potential, Bentivegna added.
"This is a great example of the Air Force Development Special Duty process at work," Bentivegna said. "Master Sergeant Parish's leadership identified his potential to serve outside his core Air Force specialty and have a greater impact across the institution as a First Sergeant. They recognized something in him he may not have seen himself. Being vectored to become a Diamond may have pushed Master Sergeant Parish outside his comfort zone but his leadership would not set him up for failure. His recent accomplishments prove they were right."
Now that he's back at Schriever, Parish said he's looking forward to getting to know his Airmen and helping them find direction in their Air Force careers.
"I'm looking forward to helping an Airman through those times when they have to go left or they have to go right," he said. "Where they're making a decision where if they say no, they may change the course of their future and if they decide to say yes, help them understand that there may be times of hesitation and uncertainty, but in the end if they continue to persevere and if they're resilient...the Air Force does good things for good people if you let it."