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NEWS | April 20, 2011

FTAC NCOIC, mentor to Airmen

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

All first-term Airmen who have gone through the 628th Force Support Squadron's First Term Airmen Center have met a sergeant who is hard to forget. This sergeant is in charge of mentoring and grooming the newcomers by helping them assimilate into today's operational Air Force.

Staff Sgt. Robert Alvarado, 628 FSS FTAC noncommissioned officer in charge, takes a lead role in setting a good example for future Airmen to follow, despite not being a direct reporting official.

"I am here to make the right first impression with our newest Airmen," Sergeant Alvarado said. "I remember my first years in the military and the struggles I had faced with transitions and a new environment. Being in the military is a lifestyle change that, at times, can be difficult to handle. I'm here to point new Airmen in the right direction and give them all available resources."

FTAC is a week-long course that happens every two weeks with up to 20 Airmen it was designed to help Airmen transition from technical school to real world operations through mentorship and mandatory briefings from agencies such as sexual assault, security forces, safety, legal and finance.

"We want to ensure Airmen know where they need to go if they have a problem," Sergeant Alvarado said. "We want them to know the rules as well, but most importantly we want them to know we are here for them."

On the first day of FTAC Airmen go through a uniform inspection where Sergeant Alvarado inspects their military appearance one-by-one.

"If they have uniform discrepancies I explain to them what they are doing wrong and I tell them the why," he said. "If they are late to class, I explain to them how even a minute behind schedule can affect our mission."

Though Airmen only spend five days with Sergeant Alvarado, he tries to make as much time as possible to mentor each Airmen.

"When Airmen come out of basic military training and technical school, they are afraid to ask questions," Sergeant Alvarado said. "They have what I call the 'basic' mentality. They think they will get in trouble, but I'm not here to punish them. I'm here to answer their questions."

Sergeant Alvarado has been the FTAC NCOIC since November 2011 and while there, one of his many accomplishments has been incorporating resiliency training, Comprehensive Airman Fitness, into his briefings.

"CAF is a way of life that fosters different aspects of overall fitness in our Airmen," he said. " To go along with this, I added some training to help them cope with the stresses of being an Airman and moving to a new location. For physical fitness I have created a physical training challenge, or a mock PT test to assess the Airmen and their strength and weaknesses. To help them become socially fit, I have incorporated classes like 'Building Healthy Relationships' and 'How not to Marry a Jerk or Jerkette.' These classes help educate Airmen on relationships, not only in a work environment, but also at home."

"For mental and spiritual well-being I bring in a mental health expert and a chaplain to talk to the Airmen on the resources available to them," he said.

Sergeant Alvarado has been in the Air Force for more than 10 years and had to apply to be the FTAC NCOIC.

"Before I was the FTAC NCOIC I was an aircraft avionics maintenance instructor from the 373rd Training Squadron," he said. "I have always enjoyed and wanted to teach."

Mentoring new Airmen, having a wife and being a father of two kids might be too much for some to handle, but Sergeant Alvarado, who lives by the core values, goes above and beyond when it come to education.

"I have two associate degrees, two Bachelor's degrees and I'm currently working on dual master's degrees," Sergeant Alvarado said. "I hope I can inspire these Airmen to take education and the benefits that are available to them seriously."