ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (9/27/2011) - The act of mentoring and
being mentored are rooted throughout history and extends its
influence from contemporary culture back to the ancient Greeks.
Mentors and their prot�g�s have left an undeniable stamp on culture
and have impacted history throughout the ages. For example Plato,
Socrates' prot�g�, wrote down his mentor's lessons, which made both
scholars famous in the future. Often the mentoring process results
in a symbiotic relationship that not only benefits the prot�g� but
the mentor as well.
Mentoring is a staunch tradition in the
military and one that many successful airmen have become acquainted
with. The Air Force is more than an occupation for many of its
members. The life of an Airman can encompasses an entire sub-culture
comprised of diverse people tasked with a variety of missions where
success or failure has the ability to influence the entire globe.
The second paragraph of the airman's creed states that
airmen uphold "a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor." How
else can the future leaders of airmen hope to uphold these standards
if they don't absorb and learn from leaders and peers?
"Mentoring is important because it gives you the opportunity of
learning from people who've already experienced different things
throughout their careers," said Chief Master Sgt. James Morris, 19th
Airlift Wing command chief master sergeant. "People who have made it
through the ranks and achieved success...you can learn from those.
Mentoring gives you an opportunity to gain insight and experience
before experiencing them yourself."
Although a mentor can
share their success stories, prot�g�'s are just as likely to learn
from people who have experienced hardships or failures, said the
command chief. Additionally, good mentors may give young airmen the
"I have had certain key people throughout
my career that have grabbed me by the back of the neck and put me in
positions that I would not have been in on my own," the command
chief said. "For instance, I was sitting in a private organization
meeting one day and they needed a treasurer and my first sergeant
volunteered me to be the treasurer."
The senior enlisted
member of the 19th Airlift Wing said he never would have volunteered
for the position personally, but learned a lot from the experience
that helped him later on in his career, and he was grateful for the
"Mentors sometimes have to give you the cold hard
facts," Morris said. "If you're not going down the right course, you
may not always like what the mentor has to say, but if it's a good
mentor, they will tell you the truth to get you on the path that you
need to be on."
While airmen should seek guidance and
leadership from successful people who have risen in the ranks,
mentoring can be done at any level. For Staff Sgt. Adam Mangin, 19th
Logistics Readiness Squadron flight administrator, being a good
prot�g� relates directly to being a good mentor.
"I had an
awesome mentor from my first two bases. I actually had the same
rater," said Mangin. "He was a guy I always felt like I could call
if I had a problem. He was my rater when I was an airman basic and
he was a staff sergeant and I saw him make tech sergeant and master
sergeant his first time so he was a good example for me too. He was
always the go-to guy for everybody, and that is something I strive
to be in my career field."
Having a positive influence and
excellent mentor left a positive impact on his career, said Mangin.
Although he has learned nearly as much from negative influences.
"My sponsor at my first base -- he emailed me back once out of
the six or seven times I tried to contact him," said Mangin. "He
picked me up at the airport, which was where I worked, didn't really
show me around the base, didn't tell me anything. He picked me
up...dropped me off in my room without furniture or supplies."
Mangin said that sitting solitary in his empty dorm room, with
only his luggage, gave him an early lesson in avoiding negatives
"I figured out right away I don't need to be
following this guy around," said Mangin.
Mangin said that he
had to take it upon himself to find positive influences and mentors
who would steer him on the right path.
Getting airmen on the
right path may not always be easy, but mentors and prot�g�s do not
have to have a complicated relationship, the command chief said.
Airmen just need to seek out mentors who have similar career goals
and have taken similar paths.
"For young airmen, the first
thing that I would tell them is to think about what they want to do
with their lives and with their careers," said the command chief.
"Then seek out a person who's gone down that path and been
successful when they've gone down that path."
find mentors anywhere, said the command chief. The only necessary
trait of a mentor is to be straightforward and honest.
said that the most important trait of being a good mentor is simple:
"Make sure you're always available, always
approachable," said Mangin. "Definitely having the open door policy
so that somebody, if they have a problem, they can come to you and
you can prepare them.
Preparing airmen for facing challenges
doesn't necessarily mean babying them or holding their hand, said
Mangin. Airmen need to be taught and given the tools to face
challenges on their own. If they aren't, the consequences can be
"If you aren't available to your airmen they
might be unprepared," said Mangin. "If they can't ask their mentor,
their supervisor 'What do I need to do?' then they won't know what
to do. Especially with something like an inspection, if they don't
know where to find the answer there will be consequences."
Being proactive is sage advice for mentors and prot�g�s alike, said
"Don't sit around and wait for someone to learn
from," the flight admin said. "You can look to people in your own
work section or back home; one of my best mentors is my band
director from high school. I still go to him for advice."
The command chief said airmen should keep an open mind when looking
for mentors to learn from. Teachers can be found anywhere; the most
important things are if they will provide honest assessment and
successful tips to their younger prot�g�s.
"A mentor doesn't
have to be a person from a specific career field, it doesn't have to
be a specific rank, it's just somebody who has done what you want do
successfully," said the command chief.
Airmen can also find
career assistance under the "Enlisted Development Plan" accessed
under the "featured links" section (sub-link "career-active" duty)
of the Air Force Portal.
The EDP is an online tool that
provides advice and guidance for all enlisted members from airman
basic to chief master sergeant.
Enlisted airmen of all ranks
can use the service to record their personal goals, track their
career progress and even record and keep track of their bullets for
enlisted performance reports.
Additionally the online tool
offers extensive advice on force development essentials, mentoring
resources, training, on the job experience and education.
By USAF Staff Sgt. Jacob Barreiro
Air Force News Service
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