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Joint Base Andrews News

NEWS | March 2, 2012

Local Air Force Chiefs Mentor AFROTC Cadets

By Cadet Captain Kathleen M. Finnegan University of Maryland AFROTC

Cadets from the University of Maryland's Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) Detachment 330 made a trip to Joint Base Andrews to sit with some of the Air Force's finest enlisted leaders Feb. 17.

Eight Chief Master Sergeants mentored the 12 cadets in what was called "The Chiefs Panel." Through the coordinated efforts of the Andrews "Top 3," an organization for senior NCOs, and the detachment's Commandant of Cadets, Captain Vaughn Gonzalez, the event launched the beginning of a new NCO mentorship program that is slated to continue for years to come.

"There were more than 200 years of combined Air Force experience in the room that day," said Gonzalez. "There really was no better place to receive insight and mentorship from some of the Air Force's best."

As the 12 cadets took their seats directly across from the eight chiefs, experience and knowledge were the only divides.

"How often would we, as newly-commissioned lieutenants, interact with chiefs?" asked Cadet Daniel Solek.

The response was, "Hardly ever."

There was a pause and a realization that the next two hours would be the most valuable experience of their ROTC careers, knowing that they would likely not get another opportunity like this again. At that moment, the questions started pouring out.

The chiefs, showing the "human" side of the towers of stripes on their shoulders, added insight to every eager question, emphasizing the importance of knowing one's people on many levels without breeching fraternization.

"The service is the biggest family you could ever have," said Senior Master Sgt. Lisa Arnold, Air Force District of Washington Command Staff superintendent. "It doesn't matter what your rank is, we are all aiming toward the same goal."

The chiefs' honesty resonated with the cadets, allowing them to understand their commitment to their career and their people.

"Invest time, energy, and be genuine with people," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Steiner, 779th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent. "Your people aren't a checklist item."

The next part of the mentoring program will individualize mentorship a shadowing program that pairs cadets with senior NCOs from various career fields. This experience combined with The Chiefs Panel is one of many ways we as an Air Force can grow our leaders early in their careers.

Detachment 330, recently named "The Best Large Detachment of the Year" in the nation, continues to find new and innovative ways to carry out the AFROTC mission to "Develop quality leaders for the Air Force."