An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | March 28, 2008

Success through great mentors

By Lt. Col. Catherine Reardon 316th Wing Public Affairs chief

I am a very fortunate person. In May I will have 20 years of commissioned service in the United States Air Force and I have had some really amazing opportunities in that time and I've also faced a couple of really difficult challenges. Much of what I've enjoyed though is a very direct result of women who served before me and women I had the honor of serving with in my Air Force. 

As a brand new second lieutenant, I was thrown into one of the largest wings in Strategic Air Command. My Public Affairs boss, a captain, was not the best of the best. About six months after I arrived on station he was relieved. It was ugly and I was afraid. Here was the wing commander, a colonel, telling me a "butter bar" that he trusted me to do a good job and that all I needed to do was ask for help when I didn't understand something.
What the wing commander didn't tell me was who to ask. I had lots of questions and since I'm writing this today I obliviously got some good advice. What's so great about it is that it came from women I served with who have also gone to serve with great honor and distinction in the Air Force and in corporate America. 

One person I often sought advice from that comes to mind is Brig. Gen. Susan Desjardins, currently the Air Force Academy Commandant of Cadets. She was a captain then. She flew KC-10s and she served as the wing executive officer. When she sat behind the desk and saw me entering the office, she always stopped what she was working on to help me. She took a lot of time with me and as an executive officer I know now that her time was precious. She made me realize that if you focus on your subordinates and their issues, the issue will get fixed sooner and the lieutenant will get out of your office! 

As the wing pubic affairs officer, I escorted a lot of people on orientation flights. Captain Desjardins always answered my questions and never made me feel inadequate for asking. I strive everyday to do the same with the people who work for me. Another KC-10 pilot, Capt. Diane Byrne, actually took the time one day to walk me through the entire refueling process and to explain to me exactly how it all worked. From that I was able to answer thousands of questions over the next two decades, all because she thought it was important for me to understand that aspect of the Air Force mission. From Captain Byrne I learned to take time to teach others because that is how we all become smarter and more knowledgeable about our Air Force. 

Over the years, I've had eight assignments across several MAJCOMS around the world. I've learned so much from everyone I met, but what I learned as a second lieutenant from Captains Desjardins and Byrne was really the foundation of my becoming a better leader and follower. Not a day goes by, when I don't think about the women who came before me in the military and how they paved the way, but I also remember the women who served along side me who paved the way for me.