Air Force honors First Sergeant of Year

Sheri Byrd
Contract writer

***image1***Senior Master Sgt. Rick Price, 435th Construction and Training Squadron, first sergeant was recently named 2004 U.S. Air Force First Sergeant of the Year.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Sergeant Price was on vacation with his 20-year-old daughter at his parents’ home in Naples, Fla., when his new squadron commander, Lt. Col. Eric Yates, phoned him to tell him the news in late June. “We were all very excited,” Sergeant Price said.
“An award like this is much larger than any one individual,” said Sergeant Price. “The units and people I’ve served with along the way, and the KMC First Sergeants Council in particular, have been a huge part of this accomplishment. I can’t take credit for all the teamwork behind this award.”
Sergeant Price said that as the son of a preacher, he learned early in life to be a team player.
“It takes everyone to run a church,” he said. “My dad also taught me to accept folks for who they are, to love them and take care of them the best you can. I feel my upbringing gave me the right heart to be successful as a first sergeant.”
He admitted that the job also has its frustrations with late nights, inopportune phone calls and difficult situations.
“But I just think, if it were me in trouble, I’d want someone with a caring, non-judgmental attitude to respond,” he said.
“I really want to thank my wife for standing by me through the whole experience. She has never complained though all the late nights and phone calls, even when a call came on our anniversary just as we were starting to sit down to a nice dinner. I owe her a lot,” he said.
Although Sergeant Price and his new commander have worked together only a short time, Colonel Yates said, “It is obvious why Sergeant Price was awarded such a high honor. In 17 years in the Air Force, I have never seen someone so good at working with the people and for the people of his unit.”
Originally in supply, Sergeant Price has been in Germany for eight years, serving units in Zweibrücken, Kapaun, Sembach and Ramstein. During this time, he deployed to both Bosnia and Qatar. He deployed to Qatar while serving as first sergeant to the 735th Civil Engineer Squadron. This experience, with other members of the squadron, he called “the highlight of my career.”
“Those guys work hard, play hard and know the meaning of teamwork,” he said.
A first sergeant since August 1999, Sergeant Price is especially pleased with the opportunity he has in his current position with the 435th CTS. Not only is he the CTS first sergeant, but he also instructs other first sergeants on how to deploy through frequent Silver Flag exercises.
“I have the deployment experience, and I’ve really enjoyed it over the last fifteen months,” he said.
One of two Air Force senior NCOs to attend the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy in 2003 in Petaluma, Calif., Sergeant Price was named honorary Senior Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard, as well as an honorary member of the Coast Guard Chiefs’ Mess. He holds two associate’s degrees, one in logistics and another in human resources. He will soon earn his third associate’s in general studies.
Sergeant Price is an active volunteer with youth basketball and the Holiday Cheer program, which he calls his passion. Involved for the last five years, he chaired Holiday Cheer in 2003 at the request of the KMC First Sergeants’ Council president.
“I love this program because I see the effects when you help people who really need it. We helped over 1,000 families in the KMC last year over Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Leaving the KMC in September, Sergeant Price will be an instructor at the First Sergeants’ Academy at Gunter Annex near Montgomery, Ala.
“I’m very excited about it. The job I’ve wanted to do the most since I entered the Air Force is to be a first sergeant. The thing I love and truly believe in is helping people, and now I get the honor of teaching others to do that.”