JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Again this year, the Secretary of the Air Force has placed special emphasis on increasing awareness of mentorship as a fundamental component of total force professional development across the Air Force during the month of January.
Col. Ron Cheatham, Air Combat Command’s Director of Manpower, Personnel and Services (ACC/A1), issued a memo Dec. 19, 2019, to ACC directors and commanders announcing January as the AF Month of Mentoring.
Cheatham’s announcement echoed the commander of ACC’s message in the previously released Developing Exceptional Leaders and Developing Exceptional Civilian Leaders memos on Oct. 12, 2017, and Jan. 29, 2019, respectively, to “mentor the leaders in ACC’s directorates and wings on their responsibility to mentor those in the echelons below them.” Cheatham emphasized that “corporate mentoring is a tool that facilitates the development of effective leaders and enhances individual performance.”
The Air Force fosters a mentoring culture by encouraging and expecting Airmen to be mentors and mentees. This culture enhances morale and discipline and improves the operational environment while maintaining respect for authority.
“Mentoring is also an inherent responsibility of leadership,” said Bill Nolte, ACC/A1KB Career Development Branch deputy chief. Key to the mentoring process is the direct involvement of commanders, directors and supervisors in the professional development of their people. Leaders should continually challenge Airmen to achieve their individual and professional goals.
Further, mentoring promotes professional development at every echelon and activity. It is an ongoing process for building a professional relationship that fosters communication concerning careers, competencies, behavior and organizational missions.
But it’s also important to have the right mentor, Nolte said.
“The right mentor is one who is truly eager to help in the developmental progress of others, has the knowledge and experience needed by the mentee, and who enthusiastically gives of their time and talent to help their mentee to grow and improve,” he said.
The mentee also shares in the responsibility for the success of a mentoring relationship by being an active learner and genuinely interested in improving themselves and the Air Force. They need to be willing to listen to and follow the guidance, instruction and advice from their mentor. Under these conditions, mentoring can have a positive impact on improving workplace cultures, unit readiness and overall mission success.
There are a number of ways to choose a mentor, and the Air Force Handbook 36-2643, Air Force Mentoring Program, recommends Airmen should pursue more than one mentor at the same time based on their goals and needs. They should think about work-related personal and professional areas where they want to improve, and they should look strategically for mentors from within the military or other sources such as alumni associations, professional associations or peer recommendations.
ACC/A1 leadership encourages ACC Airmen to continue to improve workplace cultures by taking that first step in establishing a mentoring relationship. Below are a number of helpful resources to aid in that process.
- Air Force Handbook (AFH) 36-2643, Air Force Mentoring Program, answers most of the questions people may have regarding mentoring. Attachment 2 of this AFH contains a Mentoring Toolkit, which includes mentor and mentee checklists, types of mentoring relationships, and a mentoring plan template.
- MyVECTOR - A web-based resource for Total Force Airmen that provides access to career field, education, training and mentoring information from one website customized to each user’s needs. Located on the Air Force Portal, this system gives Airmen access to their records, career field information and a means to communicate with peers through a forum chat area. It also allows an Airman to request a mentor or be matched with a mentor. The mentoring section of MyVECTOR contains information to assist mentors and mentees alike as they establish career goals and objectives. Mentees can connect with their mentors using this platform, and the mentor will be able to view their mentee’s developmental progress to provide feedback and recommendations.
- The ACC/A1KB Force Development Branch AF Portal site contains a page on mentoring where you will find mentor and mentee guides and other resources to help initiate effective mentoring relationships.
- The virtual Force Development Center, located on the AF Portal, provides a clearinghouse of leadership development and mentoring resources.
- The Department of Defense Mentoring Resource Portal has mentoring resources that are provided to reinforce and influence an enduring mentoring culture throughout the Department. It’s located at https://www.dcpas.osd.mil/CTD/Mentoring.
- The Federal Leadership Development Program has a searchable electronic library of programs offered by Federal departments and agencies to foster the development of leadership skills in their employees. It is located at https://www.opm.gov/services-for-agencies/federal-leadership-development-programs/. Mentoring information is located under the Workforce & Succession Planning tab.