Mentorship takes on different looks

  • Published
  • By Michael Gulino
  • 338th Training Squadron
Mentorship is defined as the ability to serve as a trusted counselor or teacher, especially in occupational settings. In these settings, a more experienced person helps to guide a less experienced person. To be truly effective, it must be an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge between a person who is perceived to have greater knowledge, wisdom, and experience and a person who is perceived to have less.

In this context, mentorship can take on many different forms. There is the professional mentorship, which we are all familiar, that exists between supervisor and subordinate. There is also the informal type that occurs among colleagues. The opportunities for mentorship exist all around us. It could be a casual conversation while walking down a hallway, during job or task-specific training, giving career advice, or even displayed in the way we dress and interact with others. We can assume someone is always watching and learning.

Recently, members of the Keesler Chiefs Group, Chief Master Sgts. David Staton, 2nd Air Force command chief; Bryon Nelson, 602 Training Group Jeff Kahapae, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, and Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) Mike Gulino, 338th Training Squadron, aided by Tech Sgt. Mack McCarthy and Senior Airman Kenneth Wise, 2nd Air Force, had the opportunity to challenge the graduating students of Airman Leadership School Class 14-1 to a volleyball match. The casual observer may have viewed this activity as a simple volleyball match, but a more introspective viewer would have easily seen the mentorship opportunities. The ALS students learned about teamwork in action. They learned about coming together to work toward achieving a common goal. Hopefully, the chiefs demonstrated exceptional sportsmanship and camaraderie.

The chiefs learned something also. Yes, mentorship can flow both ways in the rank structure. We learned that, while we are nearing the end of our careers, our Air Force is in some very capable hands. Our young troops, even when faced with a difficult task, do not give up. They work hard to reach their goals.

After the match ended, in the chiefs favor of course, Chief Staton gathered the ALS students into a huddle and challenged them to demonstrate everyday exactly why they have earned the staff sergeant stripe. He asked them to care for the troops they will soon be supervising, not to strut around with a "Look what I have done" attitude.

Hopefully, his message of, "Don't just wear the the stripe," during this short mentorship session left these students with the impression that they can no longer think of only themselves. They must work as a team to build unit esprit de corps. They must be aware of the opportunity to mentor and guide their troops may come unexpectedly and they must always be prepared for such opportunity. They must be aware that because of their rank and position, they are constantly under observation; someone is always watching and learning.

The Keesler ALS class size is about 20 - 24 students who are managed and taught by Commandant Senior Master Sgt. John Bowden and a staff of three instructors. The normal class flow is about seven classes per year. The Keesler Chiefs Group regularly challenges each graduating class to a volleyball match, while the First Sergeants Group typically challenges the students to either softball or bowling. The students enjoy spending time with senior enlisted leaders and especially appreciate the mentorship that senior enlisted members provide.

The ALS staff echoes these feelings and adds that interaction with senior enlisted members not part of the school or in the students' command structure is very beneficial.
Bowden stated, "Time spent with senior leadership is priceless."

To the graduating students of ALS class 14-1, congratulations on achieving a very significant milestone in your careers. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors. To the students of future ALS classes, the Chiefs look forward to the opportunity to defeat you in a volleyball match. We also look forward to the opportunity to mentor you and learn from you as well. Remember, it is not really about volleyball.