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NEWS | Nov. 7, 2008

Airmen role models keystone to mission

By Master Sgt. Andrew Denham 99th Airlift Squadron First Sergeant

In his recent From the Top commentary, the 316th Operations Group first sergeant, Master Sgt. Anthony Berman addressed accountability and respect. His statement that accountability and respect save Airmen was spot-on and apropos in today's competitive Air Force environment. While we have a professional responsibility to hold our Airmen accountable for their actions, good or bad, the need for mentoring also has never been greater. 

The Air Force Professional Development Guide defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. 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. 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 fly, fight, and win. This is not to say, however, that the "old" ways of doing business should be forgotten. After all, the success of the Air Force requires current leaders to develop future leaders. 

In an Airman's Roll Call in August 2007, mentoring was identified as the "framework to bring about cultural change in the way we view the professional development of competent future leaders." The art of leadership is best taught through deliberate mentorship and is the responsibility of all to ensure it happens. 

Mentorship is necessary to groom Airmen who have the potential for leadership and the mentor does not have to be a manager or supervisor to facilitate the process. Mentorship is a supportive relationship where knowledge, skills, and experience are shared. A good mentor will be an expert in his area and able to share wisdom in a nurturing way, affording opportunities to ask questions and share concerns. Mentorship develops a more self-confident and competent Airman. 

Mentoring can be formal and informal. In all environments, informal relationships develop, but formal relationships can and must be established to promote the development of our less-experienced Airmen. Research suggests that Airmen who have a mentor are twice as likely to understand their role and remain on active duty. Also, mentoring is a low-cost, high-yield way to train. 

In a day where retention is vital, mentorship provides a means to help our newest Airmen understand their responsibilities and role for the future.