JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, Washington, D.C. –
Mentorship has always been foundational and vital to success in the United States Air Force. The Air Force Handbook 36-2643, Air Force Mentoring Program, describes it as “an essential ingredient in developing well-rounded, professional and competent future leaders.” Diligent leaders find or make opportunities to train, advise, guide and direct those around them.
Members of the 11th Wing at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C. did just that when they facilitated a virtual mentorship panel Jan. 20 in honor of National Mentoring Month.
National Mentoring Month is a time to focus Air Force Airmen and Space Force Guardians on investing in the mentoring movement – as either a mentor or mentee.
U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Christophere Roberson, 11th Wing Commanders Action Group director, said 120 11th Wing members logged onto Zoom to participate in their designated officer, enlisted and civilian panels throughout the day.
“Our wing commander, vice commander, command chief and director of staff were panel members for all three panels,” said Roberson, who organized the event. “The 11th Wing command team is planning to do quarterly tiered luncheons with enlisted, officer and civilian Airmen.”
U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Jackson, 11th Operations Group commander, who co-facilitated the officer panel, said that his main takeaway from the event is that mentoring is just as important now as it was when he joined 25 years ago.
“This event was, of course, different due to COVID and technology, but the key messages and themes were largely the same, just communicated through a different venue,” said Jackson. “Mentoring opportunities are crucially important for everyone on both sides of the equation. Overall, surrounding yourself with good people, different points of view, and differing life experiences will only help you in your life and career in making well-rounded decisions.”
Each of the panel members shared about how they mentor and how mentorship helped them in their personal and professional lives. The panel also allowed participants to ask questions and share their own mentorship experiences.
Kathy Hill, 11th WG Civilian Personnel Flight chief, participated and helped facilitate the civilian panel.
“It’s important to share experiences so others feel comfortable in discussing their goals for the future,” said Hill. “I hope it helped participants feel comfortable in finding a mentor or discussing their goals with their supervisor. Also, seeing that they have probably had mentors all along and didn’t realize it.
Hill said the one of the civilian panel participants actually reached out to her for continued mentorship.
Oftentimes, mentorship activities focus on enlisted and officer Airmen. Including a civilian panel was a deliberate decision to ensure the civilian workforce understood how valued they are to the JBAB Family.
“Civilians are a vital part of the team and the continuity of the base once the military start to deploy,” said Hill. “We are just as committed as the military in performing our jobs and being part of the team. At the end of the day, we are all Airmen.”
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Donald Cleveland, the 11th Mission Support Group senior enlisted leader, also served as a panel member during the enlisted session.
“I get excited about taking care of people and loved a forum that highlights the possibility,” said Cleveland. “Many mentorship sessions I have experienced have come from one-to-one conversations, but I hope this event showed the importance of putting effort into a mentor-mentee relationship.”
Cleveland described how all panel members had at least one truly impactful mentor who saw something in them that they did not see in themselves. Those mentors challenged them and provided them opportunities to excel.
“I hope participants realized they are never alone in this journey in life,” he said. “If one person attended this session and now will give mentorship a chance, then in my opinion, it was worth any time we shared.”