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Mentor program develops future leaders

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Last year, 150 new Airmen joined the Arizona Air National Guard to serve the nation and state from right here in Tucson. This constant and sizable influx of junior members highlights the importance of mentorship within the ranks.

The 162nd Fighter Wing's mentoring program allows junior and senior members to communicate on an informal level about new skills, promotions, career goals or personal issues.

Chief Master Sgt. Jacinta Figueroa, human resources advisor, is in charge of the mentor program here and is a proponent for facilitating bonds between mentors and protégés.

"Most of the requests for mentors are from individuals seeking advice about career progression, promotions, commission board interviewing and even public speaking," said Figueroa. "The goal is to match up individuals with a mentor based on their needs."

Information about the mentoring program is readily available on the 162nd Fighter Wing website under the resources tab. It outlines the main purpose of the program and lists additional resources.

Airmen seeking a mentor may complete an online form to describe their professional interests and goals. Based on those goals a suitable mentor is selected. Individuals also have the option to request a specific mentor.

According to Figueroa, a mentor does not have to be a member's immediate supervisor nor does it have to be someone within their career field.

"Once mentor and protégé are paired, they receive additional information on mentoring and an individual development plan they can both work together on. It provides structure to objectives they collectively indentify," said Figueroa.

Knowing how to solve problems before they occur is a major part of the mentoring program, the chief said. Supervisor Mentoring 101 training is offered during each drill weekend to supervisors and managers on different topics to enhance their leadership skills and their ability to effectively mentor junior members. A schedule of training courses is also posted on the website resources page.

Subject matter experts cover topics that range from awards and decorations to force management. Maj. Melissa Jackson from the 162nd Comptroller Flight provided training on fraud, waste and abuse during November unit training assembly. She emphasized the training's importance for leaders at all levels.

"People get stuck on terminology. They hear the word supervisor and question whether or not they should attend. It's training for managers as well," said Jackson.

The next Mentoring 101 course will cover mental health and wellness. Diane Schiff, director of psychological health, will discuss how to identify stress in the work place Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. in the 162nd Civil Engineer Squadron conference room.

"I truly believe in mentoring as a leadership strategy. It will help us develop our future leaders, it will help us retain the best people, and it will give people a sense of where they fit in the wing and how what they do makes a difference," said Figueroa.