All it takes is a mentoring moment

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As I thought about taking command of my first squadron, I reflected back to all the people that had mentored me throughout my career thus far. The faces and words became visible and vibrant again.

There is one mentor (my first) that comes to mind and stays at the forefront of my thoughts--Col. Oswaldo Mullins. I was a second lieutenant and he was my second Squadron commander at Kadena Air Base. 

Colonel Mullins would call me in just to talk about the job and what I was doing outside of the office. He would provide me stories about what experiences he had in career. I can remember that I felt that I could go to him to just talk about issues and concerns that I had both professionally and personally. As we sat there during these sessions, we would discuss about how to handle things in certain situations and we would talk about the pitfalls that I needed to avoid.

At the time I did not know that my commander was mentoring me. But I have come to realize that he was mentoring me about being an officer/leader, a good person and what I need to do to advance in my Air Force career. This is a little more than what is referenced as mentoring in Air Force Policy Directive 36-34, "Air Force Mentoring Program."

Our mentoring moments were not always in an official setting or a part of an official feedback session. A lot of times, our mentoring moments would be just be, what I refer to as, "On the Spot Mentoring" moments that would come up when the situation exposed itself. I felt every lucky to have a commander that took the time to talk to me and vector me in the right way on a professional and personal level.

I have found that with the stresses of our ever growing high ops tempo, we do not mentor as much as we should. Mentoring does not need to be officer to officer mentoring like in my case; it can be a combination of mentoring settings. Throughout my career I have been mentored by Officers, Enlisted and civilians. I believe that anyone that has experience and greater insight should be mentoring others in some way.

In my short career, I am seeing that mentoring is making a strong come back to our Air Force culture. I feel that it is needed to as we push forward in today's environment of doing more with less! In order to continue to grow more mentors and develop our future leaders, it is going to take a concise effort for everyone to stress mentoring of others as often as possible and when warranted. To this day I still talk to my mentor on issues and challenges that I encounter. Mentoring does not have to be a long face to face session; it can be in an e-mail or during a phone call.

Now as a new squadron commander, I find myself thinking that it is my turn to make the time for my troops like Colonel Mullins did for me.