Mentoring – Are you involved?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Marc Allen
  • 7th Airlift Squadron
What is a mentor? In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus and was asked to look after Odysseus' son Telemachus when Odysseus left for the Trojan War.

In modern times, the word has come to mean a trusted friend or counselor. The mentor is usually someone senior and more experienced who looks after a more junior colleague.

The noun has become a verb, and mentoring is often seen as the process by which an older and wiser colleague passes on wisdom, experience, and advice, and helps to guide a more junior person.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to mentor and prepare future leaders, but we also need Airmen who are willing and humble enough to be mentees.

I met my mentor, Master Sgt. Paul Hafer, about 10 years ago. Not only is he still my mentor, he's a valued friend. Our relationship began when we met during my first assignment to McChord in 2001. I valued his knowledge as I was just settling into my role as a junior non-commissioned officer.

Master Sgt. Hafer mentored me throughout our entire time stationed together at McChord. He took the time to sit down with me and discuss my career and goals, and he took an active role in my career progression to ensure that I became a well-rounded NCO.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from him was to interact and share. He shared his mistakes and struggles, as well as his successes. Looking back, his advice was not only helpful, it was vital, and it still is. The insight garnered from my mentor has had a deep impact on my career in the Air Force.

What are the benefits to mentoring? Firstly, it is one of the most cost and time-effective leadership development activities. Mentoring offers an effective way of integrating new Airmen into the workforce. Because mentors pass on Air Force core values, ethics and standards, this process ensures the future success of the Air Force. Mentoring helps both the mentee and the mentor recognize their abilities and limitations, thus highlighting areas for future development. It can also help increase the motivation of both the mentee and the mentor. The mentee gains a new direction or perspective, while the mentor feels a sense of achievement when their mentee succeeds.

Most importantly, we all have a responsibility to prepare our future leaders, since they will one day be are our replacements.

All Airmen need to understand that mentoring other Airmen is one of our primary responsibilities -- the future of our service depends on it. Furthermore, Airmen will receive a great sense of gratification when they see the outcome of their investment in others.

As the author Zig Ziglar has said, "A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could."