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NEWS | July 9, 2010

Leaders building leaders

By Senior Master Sgt. David Dunham Presidential Airlift Squadron superintendent

President Reagan stated during his first Inaugural Address, "We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow". As the Air Force continues its drawdown and we lose the icons who framed our cornerstone of success, we will look for new leaders to take their place. However, the key questions on everyone's minds are: where will they come from and are they prepared to fill the great shoes left behind? Each year we bring in thousands of new Airmen, send them to basic training, technical schools and on to their first duty station, then trust they will become the future. Trust is a powerful word and in many cases will accomplish the task; however, with our young Airmen we need to take an active role and develop our future. It is up to us to cultivate their exceptional talent and visualize them standing in our shoes.

The word mentorship is a buzzword often heard around the office or displayed proudly on performance reports, but have you taken time to understand what it is and, more importantly, how to do it? There seems to be a cliche that mentors can only be leaders or the assumption that leaders have always led. The point to remember is anyone can be a mentor and every leader began their journey as a follower looking to others for guidance. The young Airman that just arrived in your unit is looking to you for their keys to success.

Mentorship is an opportunity for you to share your unique experiences with others and help them avoid the pitfalls of life; the time you spend can last for years or a few minutes, but is certain to leave a lasting impact. Take a moment to think of an individual that made a lasting impression on you. Why did that person have such an impact, and who has helped you become the person you are today? Mentorship is about taking an interest and becoming involved in the lives of others as their adviser, coach, facilitator or advocate. Opportunities exist every day, whether it is spending a few minutes talking about education with someone unsure of where to begin, becoming a sounding board for an Airman contemplating a career move, or seeking out the individual who is narrating the next commander's call and offering a few words of advice. The key to mentorship is making time to share your thoughts and ideas with a future leader.

For those who aspire to make an impact, consider the path of a truly successful leader and former 89th Airlift Wing Airman that enlisted in the Air Force as an F-4 Phantom radar technician. The Airman's supervisors recognized his talents and encouraged him to pursue a commission and ultimately attend pilot training. This Airman advanced through the ranks seeking advice from superiors and becoming a mentor to those around him. During his tenure as the 99th Airlift Squadron commander, I still remember his passion for taking care of people and committing himself to their continued success; he always took time to share his experiences and advice. The Airman is now Brig. Gen. Steven Arquiette. He continues to shine as an example to others and is currently the Deputy Director of Operations in the National Military Command Center.

From Airman to General is a remarkable achievement, but one that didn't occur without countless hours of mentorship. As you look around your unit, how many individuals do you see achieving the same level of success? Are you taking the extra minute to make a difference? Simply put, growing our next generation of leaders is largely dependent on how well you inspire, motivate and lead others. The great leaders of today will play a significant role in shaping those leaders who will follow in our footsteps. Let's ensure every Airman is better tomorrow than they were yesterday.