Mentorship: Important at all levels

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona -- I believe one of the greatest opportunities and responsibilities we as leaders have is mentoring Airmen at all levels.

Mentoring helps Airmen understand how their ambitions fit into the Air Force mission, life and their career choices. Each of us have areas of expertise that we have acquired over our careers, and some of us may have acquired a degree of expertise prior to entering the Air Force that has helped our professional development over time.

Mentoring builds relationships that enhance individuals' development in their organizations throughout their careers. Today, more than ever, we need mentors to inspire Airmen to challenge themselves outside of their comfort zones and grasp other lessons out there that will help them grow professionally.
I have been asked by junior NCOs, "How do you find the right mentor?" My first reaction was to say, anybody will do. In a perfect world, where everyone is on the same page, this would be great, but in reality, it's often not that simple.

For me, I have personally picked several Airmen in my career and told them I was going to mentor them. Bold? Yes. However, sometimes making this move is enough to inspire them to return the gesture by grabbing one or more of their subordinates to mentor. A chain reaction occurs. That is success.

Now, how do you find the right mentor? First, identify your goals and observe the leadership in your organization or outside your organization, and see if there are any similarities in personality, drive and career accomplishments. Decide where you want to go in your career? What career accomplishments do they have that are not career-field specific that you want? Discover who inspires you to go outside your comfort zone and why? There is your answer.

I personally encourage looking outside your organization for a mentor. We have a tendency to allow our specific career field to influence us or cause us to have tunnel vision.

An important thing to remember is that your goal should also include what you can do for the Air Force and not only what can the Air Force do for me.

Get out of your organizations and get involved with LEAD, Focus 56, Top 3 and network. I have had the pleasure of meeting some impressive Airmen and junior NCOs at Club Five Six who work outside my unit. Conversations spark and unity forms between several different career fields, and NCOs start mentoring without even realizing they are doing it. It is important to know the people in your unit, but it is just as important to know people who are not. Amazing things can happen when people come together as a cohesive wing instead of just different units.

As I look at the young men and women around the base, I often ask myself if they have a mentor or are they mentoring someone? So, are you? If not, what is stopping you?