When people talk about mentorship, they may think of a senior NCO guiding an NCO or an Airman. However, this should not always be the case. Mentorship can occur at any level and is a useful tool for all Airmen.
A mentor is someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person. Based on this definition, mentorship does not have to only come from upper-level management.
Good mentorship starts with caring about your people. Asking how their weekend was or how their day is going just isn’t enough. We cannot be satisfied with yes or no answers. We must ask open-ended questions in order to get our Airmen to open up. We have to show we are truly concerned for them and are not just going through the motions.
Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure paragraph 220.127.116.11, talks about being mentally ready to accomplish the mission. That means we have to be actively involved with monitoring our Airmen’s well being. Paragraph 4.1.6 discusses how we need to know and understand the wingman concept. ACE (ask, care, escort), is a concept that will help with this process. Ask the tough questions, care about their answers and them, and escort them to the proper agency if needed.
Junior NCOs have an ideal opportunity to mentor the young Airmen around them. Keeping in line with EFS, paragraph 4.1.13 tells them to use their own experiences and knowledge to mentor others. This is something that cannot be done if a junior NCO doesn’t know his own job. They are the examples that are seen every day, whether it be good or bad. Their actions need to mimic their words.
In addition, they have to be willing to follow the same standard that is set for their Airmen. Their credibility will be compromised if they falter. They also have to be willing to admit when they make a mistake and not sweep it under the rug to hide their imperfections.
Junior NCOs are in a prime position to see how Airmen work and perform on a daily basis, and should be making corrections, suggestions, or giving advice when they notice something change.
EFS also states in paragraph 4.1.5 to clearly meet and strive to exceed the standards and expectations that are set for junior enlisted Airmen.
Too often we sit idly by and do nothing until that Airman is on his last chance. If we would stop what we are doing and help them when things first go awry, we would have prevented the whole situation.
Mentorship is something that is talked about all the time. However, if we practice what we preach and truly care about our Airmen the Air Force will be in very good hands.