Mentor Those Trainees

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Richard Devereaux
  • 82nd Training Wing commander
We have had had some incredible Team Sheppard events over the past week!

First, I want to thank everyone for the enormously successful visit by our Air Education and Training Command Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Welsh. The pride, professionalism and great appearance of the base were evident everywhere he went and I'm sure generated another Sheppard cheerleader at Headquarters AETC - thanks again.

Also, the 82nd Training Wing's Annual Awards Banquet Friday night, led by Master Sgt. Jake Heis and Master Sgt. Troy Kettell, was also first class - I really appreciated the great turnout.

Saturday night's Tops In Blue, orchestrated by Ms. Sandra Gupton from the 82nd Services Division, was also a huge hit for our local community, playing to a sellout crowd at Memorial Auditorium in Wichita Falls.

And Wednesday's National Prayer Breakfast, featuring three-time Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl champ, U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program-trained A-10 pilot Chad Hennings was a great experience for all who attended. Many thanks to Chap. (Col) Richard Munsell and his whole team for orchestrating this meaningful event for Team Sheppard.

But despite all these great events, and the great mission happening here day after day, there's one big negative on my mind - our DUI trend. Since the 143-day streak ended last September, we have had 10 DUIs here at Sheppard, all in the 82nd Training Wing. Furthermore, of the 13 DUIs we had in the last 12 months, 10 have occurred in the last six months. And the most important statistic of all is that eight of these 10 DUIs have involved young trainees, many of whom were underage.

Based on our statistics and trends, our high-risk population is our young trainee population, most of whom don't have government e-mail accounts and therefore can't read this message. That shouldn't be a revelation to any of us. This concerns me deeply because we already know that alcohol-related vehicle accidents are the No. 1 killer of AF people every year.

So how do we ensure the message gets through to our young trainee population? Our typical approach is repetitive, mass briefings in auditoriums, formations, classrooms, hallways and dormitories. We probably think we sound like a broken record. We assume the message is getting through, but is it? What's missing?

I believe what's often missing in our training environment is the one-on-one conversation between trainee and leaders and mentors to ensure our young trainees know exactly what we expect with respect to the safe operation of a motor vehicle, seat belt usage, underage drinking and drinking and driving. It's this one-one-one contact that may be missing.

One-on-one mentoring can be very effective, and necessary - we all need to foster it and encourage it. So whether you are an instructor, Military Training Leader or one of the hundreds of support personnel at Sheppard, never miss an opportunity to mentor our young trainees - whether they be Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines or student pilots. Your personal contact may have a career-lasting impact. More importantly, your personal contact may save a life.

Thanks Team Sheppard for all you do to support the combat capability of tomorrow's Air Force. Have a safe, three-day weekend. And please, please, don't drink with car keys in your pocket or purse!