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Pass on what you know, find out the things you don’t

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Who is your mentor? Who is your protégé? 

I would like all wing members to be able to answer those questions and be able to say in all honesty that they foster those relationships. The future growth and leadership of this wing depends on it. 

Our next generation of supervisors, chiefs and commanders is already here. They're out there maintaining aircraft, securing the base, managing programs and making the mission happen. Through mentorship we can ensure they are ready for the tasks that lie ahead. 

Long before "developing Airmen" became an Air Force core competency, the 162nd Fighter Wing had a great tradition of leadership. It happens here every day. Commanders are communicating a vision for their units, supervisors are teaching new skills to their juniors and young people are speaking up and asking good questions to better themselves and the unit. 

But I am talking about mentorship; deliberate and voluntary relationships that are broad in scope and not narrowly focused on a new skill or a means to get promoted. 

Mentorship provides leadership, career and personal development for our Airmen, and it gives leaders an opportunity to pass on principles, traditions, shared values and lessons learned. 

Every member of the 162nd Fighter Wing is encouraged to participate in the wing's mentor program, whether formally or informally, and take advantage of any and all resources available. 

Recently the program has been revived; and, after receiving input from commanders, the command chief, first sergeants and participants, changes were made to improve access to program information and resources. 

First, each squadron now has an assigned mentor coordinator. The mentor coordinator is available to advise and guide fellow unit members through the mentor program. 

Second, a "Mentor Program Resources" corner is now located on the wing's public Web site, on the bottom left side of the "Resources" page. There you can find links to information, articles and forms including the Mentor 101 pamphlet, the Mentor Program Participation Request form and a listing of squadron mentor coordinators. 

Lastly, quarterly mentor "Meet and Greet" luncheons are being organized by squadron mentor coordinators. These luncheons will give the coordinators an opportunity to share ideas, training information and resources for the benefit of squadron leadership, mentors and protégés. 

Initial feedback from program participants has been emphatically positive. I promise you that being a mentor or a protégé will not feel like an additional duty. You'll feel rewarded by the experience of investing in yourself and in others. 

It can be so simple. 

For potential mentors - listen carefully and ask questions. Reach out to junior officers and Airmen. 

Determine what your protégé's goals and objectives are. Utilize the Individual Development Plan available on the 162nd Web site. 

More importantly, spend quality time with your protégé to guide them and share your experience and knowledge. 

You'll be surprised at how they will come back to you for guidance when they know you are approachable and that you care. 

For potential protégés - be clear about your goals. Utilize the Individual Development Plan and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Establish goals for improvement and be open to honest and constructive feedback. Have a desire to improve yourself and genuinely consider the advice you're given. 

You too will be surprised at how much you can learn and what a mentor can offer. 

Keep in mind that your mentor or protégé does not have to be your supervisor or subordinate. As long as you respect the chain of command, it could be someone from outside your shop - from outside your career field. And you don't have to be limited to just one. 

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.