April 24, 2015

Make time to mentor your Airmen

Commentary by Staff Sgt. MATTHEW WERNER
56th Maintenance Group 

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, AZ — The Air Force is comprised of Airmen with many skills and talents. The backbone to our continued success is our men and women who strive to be excellent on a daily basis. However, there are times when our focus is derailed by our own personal and professional guidelines.

I was taught as a young Airman that the mission always came first, and my career progression was a direct result of my continued guidance and support of my supervisors. I attribute much of my success today to others, because I was fortunate enough to have a strong support system and mentors in my NCOs.

In particular, I recall one of the best mentors who pushed me to attain the level of leadership that is instilled in me to this day. At the time, I was a senior airman with a line number for staff sergeant and thought I was ready for the challenge to lead my subordinates. That was far from the truth. I attended Airman Leadership School and figured that everything taught to me was all I needed to be an effective mentor.

However, I didn’t take into consideration the very core of who we are as Airmen is that we mold our subordinates to eventually carry on the roles and responsibilities expected of us as leaders. This doesn’t happen overnight. That technical sergeant told me, “If you want to be an effective NCO, you need to make the time to mentor your Airmen.”

As I look back, that technical sergeant provided that same mentality when I was under his supervision. Not only did I look to him for technical guidance, but I looked up to him as a successful Airman, husband and father. I was a single Airman at the time and was stationed overseas and at times felt like I was a world away from what I was comfortable with. That technical sergeant would go out of his way to miss a family dinner to come over to my dormitory and check on me and my fellow Airmen because he cared about our wellbeing. He was also the first one to invite us all over to his house for holiday meals and to give us a little piece of home.

At the time, I didn’t realize how important it was to me, but further down the road, I saw how the smallest of gestures went a long way. Even if it is taking your lunch break and accompanying your troop to the dining facility to give career advice, it goes a long way.

Our Airmen are very conscious of what we offer as leaders. They will accept any and all advice given to them. Over the years, I have striven to lead and mentor my subordinates in the same way I was exposed to. I have made the time to mentor my Airmen not because I have to, but because I want to.

We all lead very busy lives especially when the mission demands the most out of us, but remember how you got to your current position. It was the leaders and mentors who took time out of their day to make sure you felt like you had someone who cared about you professionally and personally.

You will only get the best out of your subordinates if you invest the time to provide guidance. We owe it to the next generation to uphold the proud legacy that was bestowed upon us by our predecessors. That will happen only if we continue to invest time in our people. Today is the day to start making the time to mentor your Airmen.

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