Mentorship, a two way street

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Professional athletes, actors and actresses, and even musicians often have one thing in common- mentors.

Career Airmen that become chiefs, first sergeants, wing commanders and command chiefs are no different; and The Top 3 organization gave Airmen the opportunity to make these connections when they hosted a speed mentoring event where Senior NCOs mentored NCOs, March 23, 2017, here.

“Communication is the key to keeping our Air Force running smoothly and mentorship is how we facilitate the transition of our Airmen at all ranks,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Brown, 23d Wing Plans flight chief. “Mentorship offers a break from normal operations to take an objective look at where we are and where we are going as individuals and as an Air Force.”

SNCOs from many career fields were invited to participate as mentors, giving attendees the opportunity to receive advice from diverse backgrounds.

“During mentoring sessions like this one, the mentee is obtaining the experiences, knowledge, and guidance of a diverse group of SNCOs,” said Brown, who helped organize the event. “It is nice to get outside of our functional areas and see other people's perspectives and how they do things. Everyone's experience in the Air Force is different and there is always something to be learned from these experiences.”

One SNCO who came to share her experiences recognizes how things Airmen may not be aware of can affect their career.

“If I knew then what I know now, I’d probably be a lot further along than I am now,” said Master Sgt. Tammie Witcher, 23d Maintenance group training section chief. “Airmen don’t always know how other people can affect them and how things they don’t know can impact their career. I feel mentoring is very important because you need someone to help and guide you.”

Witcher explained that sometimes new Airmen are afraid to ask questions about their personal and professional lives and mentoring sessions like this can give them the opportunity to ask those questions.

She elaborated that sometimes the wrong information is passed around because different people interpret Air Force Instructions in different ways and that while it’s important to read them for yourself, it’s also a good idea to get an outside opinion.

“People give others bad information all the time,” said Witcher. “It’s better for you to ask your own questions and receive the information face-to-face so you can get help. I think you should come to mentoring events like this [because] networking is beneficial for the mentor as well as the mentee.”

When Airmen move into the NCO tier, they become supervisors with more responsibilities and higher expectations. Though they have the rank and title, they will have questions about their new roles as NCOs.

While Witcher was focused on helping newer NCOs, one NCO came to the event seeking information on career progression.

“One of my main questions was ‘as you progress in your careers, what was one of the biggest lessons you learned that help you get where you are today’,” said Tech. Sgt. Ernie Williams, 23d Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems supervisor. “My favorite part was being able to communicate freely and put my questions out on the table. Hearing the different views from each mentor and different perspectives made this awesome.”

Though Williams felt the overall event was a success, he also stressed the importance of mentorship and the impact a good mentor can have on a career.

“Mentorship provides professionalism and personal support to facilitate success in one's career,” Williams added. “Usually, those mentors have knowledge or a particular skillset they’ve acquired throughout their career. It also can give you a game plan and different views from someone who has been in your position and how they overcame it, or how to achieve what you want.”

In order for Airmen to receive this information, SNCOs have to be willing to pass it down. It all comes down to wingmanship, leadership and a willingness to help.

“It would make me happy to know that I’ve helped someone,” said Witcher. “That I gave them good information and that they passed it along to help someone else.”