Mentorship: It is second nature at Vance AFB

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Douglas Hayes
  • 71st Communications Squadron commander
Over the past couple of months, Vance has seen its share of leaders depart. Fellow squadron commanders have handed over the guidon and at each of these ceremonies, the words mentor and mentorship have been spoken about the outgoing commander.

Additionally, the primary enlisted mentor on base, Chief Master Sgt. Kenui Balutski, recently departed for his deployment.

Mentoring has been key to my career development and it is critical to the future success of our Air Force. We do not have the luxury of hiring senior leaders -- officer or enlisted -- from outside industry and placing them in the Air Force.

We have to grow our own leaders from the Airmen assigned to our organizations. To do this we need to take the time to heed the words of Gen. Edward Rice, the Air Education and Training Command commander, during his April visit here, and "mentor all."

Several years ago, I was assigned as an executive officer to the 12th Operations Group at Randolph AFB, Texas. As a first lieutenant I hadn't spent a lot of time around the flying community.

Like all executive officers I learned the likes and dislikes of my commander as well those of wing leadership. I didn't do this all on my own. I was mentored by a senior captain who went by the name of "Rags."

Rags took the time to explain in great detail why things were the way they were and guided me over the year that we spent working together. He was very instrumental in sending me to squadron officer school as soon as I was eligible and completing a master's degree.

Today, having a master's degree and completing professional military education seem like no brainers to me. But as a young lieutenant, that was not the case.

I have to give a lot of credit to Rags for the way my Air Force career has gone so far. If I hadn't had him, or someone like him, mentor me as a young officer, I don't believe I would have been given the opportunity to lead as a squadron commander.

Here at Vance, I have witnessed mentorship at all levels. For example, during the 2011 Compliance Inspection outbrief, the AETC inspector general lauded a senior airman for her mentorship of fellow Airmen in her squadron.
I have witnessed a senior NCO help an officer improve his overall fitness and pass the fitness test. I have seen the positive results of mentoring on Airmen throughout the wing.

As incoming commanders and the new Wing command chief assume their roles, I have no doubt they will continue to lead and mentor in the manner of their predecessors. However, as noted by the IG, you don't have to be a commander or command chief to mentor. It occurs throughout the Wing at all ranks of Airmen.

Mentoring is a never-ending endeavor in the Air Force and it is key to the success of all Airmen. Here at Vance, mentoring is second nature. I believe we are meeting General Rice's edict to "mentor all" as we develop Airmen to Aim High and Fly, Fight and Win!