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NEWS | Feb. 20, 2010

Mentorship grooms Airmen into leaders

By Lt. Col. Preston L. Williamson 99th Airlift Squadron

Recently, our squadron completed a unit climate assessment. While most aspects of the assessment were positive, I noted that a few of the younger Airmen in the squadron felt they had no clearly defined "mentor" available to them. The operations tempo in our squadron is extremely demanding and volatile, but the men and women of the mighty 99th Airlift Squadron are always ready for a challenge, and there is no task they cannot perform. Our nation's leaders know this too and ask it of us daily. We perform without fail. But I think that because we are so devoted to successful mission accomplishment, we might not always take the time to mentor in other areas so vital to an Airman's growth. The need for a mentor has never been greater.

In an "Airman's Roll Call" article in August 2007, mentoring was identified as the "framework to bring about cultural change." The art of leadership is best taught through deliberate mentorship and is the responsibility of all to ensure it happens. Mentorship is not simply career guidance and counseling, it is leading from the front: teaching how to think outside the box to get the mission done.

Mentorship is necessary to groom Airmen who have the potential for leadership. The mentor does not have to be a manager or supervisor to facilitate the process. Mentorship is a supportive relationship where knowledge, skills and experiences are shared. Mentorship develops a self-confident, and more importantly, an independent and self-reliant Airman.

Because we live in a time of rapid change, new discoveries in science are soon overshadowed by new findings. We are continuously expanding our understanding and vision in order to not become "out-of-date." The Air Force paradigm shift over the past decade has not only restructured our combatant role, but the face of our personnel. The Airmen of today are younger, faster and smarter and bring a refreshing perspective to the way we operate.

Independence and self-reliance are critical to our mission. When we increase our dependence on anything or anyone, we find an immediate decrease in our freedom to act.

In a day where retention is vital, mentorship provides a means to help our newest Airmen understand and accept their responsibilities, their value, their role for the future and their ability to facilitate change as we seek new and better ways to fly, fight and win.