SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
If you’ve ever had to ask this
question, the answer was probably “no.”
We know what mentors are: respected, experienced and trusted advisors we
go to when we need guidance. The good
ones even come to us when we don’t realize we need them. But how do we get our mentors? Early on, it’s often our first line
supervisors or maybe a sharp co-worker.
As we progress in rank and experience and realize the Air Force is
bigger than just our work center, we begin to seek out those who have attained
what we hope to, or those who have experienced what we are currently experiencing.
Some of us just happen to hear an awesome speech, or read a great article, and
decide we want that person as our
mentor. Whatever avenue leads you to
your mentor, the fact is that it’s “your” mentor, a decision you make.
fellow SNCO in one of our units began assigning mentors to Airmen. Meaning well, this SNCO only wanted to ensure
the junior airmen were being taken care of.
There was no discussion between the mentor and mentee on this decision -
just a quick note that Master Sgt. Johnson was now Staff Sgt. Jones’
mentor. Problems occurred of
course: 1) they didn’t know each other
or 2) there was no respect or 3) the mentor didn’t know how or want to mentor,
etc. Instead of helping and motivating
the airmen, it caused a decline in morale and duty performance. Something as personal and meaningful as a mentoring
relationship should be agreed upon by both mentor and mentee. Mutual respect, understanding and willingness are
paramount in this relationship, or it will not work.
My first mentor was my
supervisor. I was a fresh one-striper
out of tech school and I worked for an “old school” senior master sergeant maintenance
superintendent. He was well respected and feared by nearly all the maintainers
in the hangar. What was telling was that
no matter how feared he was, his office was never empty of people seeking his
advice and opinion. I was also one of
them; though we were different AFSCs, he understood my career field and set me
on the path to excellence. He mentored me every day, whether I wanted it or
not, although I likely needed it. When
he made chief master sergeant, he was very humbled, a trait I also took great
note of. He was the first chief I
encountered; he was stern yet encouraging and humble, and I knew right then I
wanted to be like him. When I made chief
master sergeant, I looked him up (a civilian now still leading and mentoring
our airmen) and thanked him profusely for his early guidance and inspiring me
to be better. Thank you Chief Master Sgt.
Francis X. Costello!
Though we didn’t have much in
common, I chose him as my mentor, and he gladly obliged. Mentoring is a privilege. Yes, we are charged with mentoring junior
airmen and officers; but we are not assigned these airmen to mentor. If we’re good, they’ll seek us out. That
is the privilege. It is then our duty to
ensure we do right by them, for them alone.
Mentees, you should never have to ask, “are you my mentor?” You should already know.