AFIT Changes Its Shirt

Posted Monday, December 04, 2023


The Air Force Institute of Technology welcomed Master Sgt. Sean Loveland as their new first sergeant in October. As the first sergeant, or Shirt, Loveland advises the commander on all matters concerning the health, morale, welfare, professional development and readiness of assigned military and civilian personnel. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Katie Scott)

The Air Force Institute of Technology welcomed Master Sgt. Sean Loveland as their new first sergeant in October. As the first sergeant, or Shirt, Loveland advises the commander on all matters concerning the health, morale, welfare, professional development and readiness of assigned military and civilian personnel. Loveland takes over the role from Master Sgt. Todd Wireman who is the new first sergeant at the 338th Recruiting Squadron.

Serving as an AFIT first sergeant is different from a more traditional Air Force organization with a high enlisted population. Officers comprise the majority of AFIT’s in-resident student population which also includes sister service and international military members. Additionally, 33 percent of AFIT’s faculty and staff are military; the majority of whom are officers.

Two primary roles that Wireman focused on during his time at AFIT were mental health and developing future Air Force leaders.

“AFIT students have a lot going on,” Wireman said. “It's an accelerated graduate program for our in-resident students and life is still happening in the background. The stressors they face are extremely intense. Sometimes it gets to a point where they break and they come see me and I help them find resources. While at AFIT, their mission is to learn, but they are still wearing the uniform, and they are still officers in the United States Air Force. So I have to try to hold that accountability line and mentor them as well.”

Wireman’s advice for AFIT students is to get involved with people and activities outside of class.

“Connectedness is so important,” Wireman said. “Connect with your peers, with your spiritual groups, with your professors. I have seen it when peers or fellow classmates notice something is off with a classmate and we are able to help that person. It has been amazing. So, developing connectedness is huge and we have to try to keep that going for our students.”

One of the projects Wireman started and will leave for Loveland to complete is a new Resiliency Office. Instead of students having to travel to different offices on different areas of the base, the first sergeant will coordinate with multiple services agencies to have office hours on the AFIT campus.

“There are a lot of resources for our members so that they can be successful,” said Wireman. “We are going to bring those resources directly to the students. For example, we will have representatives from the AFIT facilitator cadre sitting in the office on a daily basis for a couple hours a day and we will bring over people from the Military Family Readiness Center who provide a wide range of resources from personal budgeting to retirement classes. Our ultimate goal is to have a full time counselor like most major universities do, but that is going to take some time and we aren’t waiting around.”

Wireman is confident that Loveland will be a good for AFIT and says while the role may be challenging, Loveland just needs to remain himself.

“Loveland is an amazing first sergeant,” said Wireman. “He has all the qualities needed of a good shirt. He is compassionate, caring and willing to put the Airman first. As a shirt, we have to have empathy and sympathy because we see Airmen through the roughest and darkest times. But we are also their cheerleaders and get to celebrate their good times as well.”

Meet the new shirt

Born and raised in Arlington, Texas, Loveland comes from a long line of Airmen.

“I joined right out of high school and didn’t quite know what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Loveland said. “I saw family members, who I consider heroes to me, join and accomplish cool things during their time in. Being able to continue that tradition and make a name for myself as well in the military was my goal.”

Serving in the Army as a combat medic was Loveland’s first choice, but finding out he was color blind changed the course of his history. He joined the Air Force in 2005 with the intent to be an electronic intelligence analyst. While in the delayed enlistment program, he met with a prior linguist who sold Loveland on the career field. Following basic training, he spent two years training to be a Chinese linguist. With only a few years of high school German, Loveland says he learned Mandarin through complete immersion.

“In the first few weeks at the Defense Language Institute you start out speaking English, but you get 500 new Chinese words every day to study and then the next day you have to use them,” Loveland said. “And so after a couple of weeks the instructors only use Chinese, so you figure it out.”

After 10 years as a language analyst, he retrained to a technical training instructor, a fusion analyst and then was assigned as a first sergeant in 2020. Once again, it was not a career path Loveland foresaw.

While on assignment in Korea in 2018, Loveland’s follow on assignment was cancelled two months before he was supposed to return stateside. He spoke with his chief who had just completed his special duty tour as a shirt, and recommended that Loveland volunteer for the first sergeant program. He took the advice and went to the Air Force First Sergeant Academy for his next assignment.

“In the Air Force that I grew up in, you only saw the shirt when you were in trouble,” Loveland said. “So needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of very positive interactions with the first sergeant as a young Airman. At the time, I did not think it was necessarily that important because I had a good peer group and good supervisors that took care of me. My main goal is to be the best first sergeant anybody has ever had. I don't like a first sergeant being looked at solely as the face of punishment, because that's such a small hat that we wear.”

Loveland’s primary focus is on resiliency, morale and retention.

“We are losing too many qualified Airmen, so if I could be a difference for some of them staying in, that is what I like,” Loveland said. “I also like being a source of information and if I don't have it, I know the people to get it from. I tell people all the time that I'm a belly button of information.”

For his time at AFIT, Loveland is interested in getting to know the students, faculty and staff and learning about their career and professional development goals. His mission is clear; he wants to be a trusted resource to turn to with questions.

“If there is one friend on this earth who is completely unbiased, very forgiving, very compassionate, it's the first sergeant,” Loveland said. “When somebody is going through the worst day of their life, the first sergeant is by their side. I know it takes a long time, but just trust why I am here and what I exist for. If I'm not the direct person, you're not leaving my office defeated because you're going to have information in hand, or an appointment on your calendar, for figuring out how to move forward.”

Married with a teenage daughter, Loveland is an avid bird hunter, enjoys going to microbreweries, and playing games like Pokémon Go and Dungeons and Dragons.


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Air Force Institute of Technology
2950 Hobson Way
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH 45433-7765
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