Mentorship -- A two way street

  • Published
  • By Maj. Ray Reynosa
  • Air Force Financial Services Center section commander
In order to define mentorship, it's important to first define those who practice it:

Mentors are a valuable resource within the Air Force. Airmen have a responsibility to learn from the mentors around them and no one is exempt from mentorship.

Who is your mentor?

According to AFI 36-3401, "The immediate supervisor or rater is designated as the primary mentor for each of his or her subordinates".

The intent of the mentorship program is to provide Airmen with a guide to help them along their personal and professional paths.

Air Force mentoring covers a wide range of areas, such as career guidance, technical and professional development, leadership, Air Force history and heritage, air and space power doctrine, strategic vision and contribution to joint war fighting.

It also includes knowledge of the ethics of the military and civil service professions and understanding Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

So what does this mean to Airmen who are either a mentor or a mentee? Can a mentor be a friend as well as a supervisor? Should the two share common interests? Are they tied to this one mentor?

Before analyzing a mentee's responsibilities, I'd like to emphasize the importance of being a mentor.

As a mentor, everyone is watching, especially the new Airmen looking for guidance. The first line supervisor is the most important tool the Air Force has to keep Airmen from making unhealthy professional and personal choices.

Even if they are not supervising yet, there will always be someone with a little less experience that needs help.

Though the AFI may seem overwhelming, the bottom line is to take care of subordinates, share accumulated experiences and keep an eye on them when unfavorable situations arise.

Anyone may be selected as a mentor based on their decision making abilities, position or the respect they have earned. If you are chosen to be a mentor for Airmen in addition to the ones you supervise, take advantage of the opportunity to guide these people who look up to you in the right direction.

A mentor must also be able to walk a fine line in order to maintain a healthy subordinate and supervisor relationship. This is essential to the development of well- rounded, professional and competent future leaders.

For the mentee, the relationship with their mentor can't be as casual as it is with their peers. The subordinate and supervisor relationship must remain professional. Crossing the line often leads to perceptions of favoritism which ultimately undermine unit cohesion, good order and discipline and can disrupt the mission.

Airmen must realize their supervisors don't need to be their "friends" in order to provide them with all the tools necessary to accomplish their jobs as well as advice on any personal matters outside of work.

Even if a mentee doesn't share anything in common with their assigned mentor, a mentee should still make the best of the knowledge available from their mentor. It's also important for a mentee to remember there is always something to learn from the people around them.

Although a mentee's direct supervisor may be responsible for their mentorship development, a mentee can seek mentorship from any number of individuals outside of their direct chain.

However, a mentee must choose their mentors wisely to avoid the blind leading the blind.

To avoid this, mentee's should find someone they won't be intimidated by and is accessible enough to give sound advice and share their experiences to help meet personal development and career goals.

Seeking out the knowledge of a positive and successful individual will help Airmen avoid mistakes in their careers. Airmen who seek mentors will also serve as better mentors.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of first line supervisors who serve as mentors and wingmen. They are crucial to the healthy decision making of future generations of Airmen