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Mentoring really does makes a difference

F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo -- Many of you have seen the movie "Troy." It follows the typical date-flick format: nation-state has girl, nation-state loses girl, nation-state wants girl back. Many of you may not know, however, that this epic forms the basis for our present-day concept of mentoring.

Enter Ulysses -- fierce warrior-leader, ruthless mercenary and all-around tough guy. He wants to go kick some Trojan butt, earn a few bucks along the way and, of course, rescue the face that launched a thousand ships. However, he's a tad worried about his son, Telemachus.

I don't have to tell you how troubling those teens can be, particularly when dad's away.
So, Ulysses, as the caring, loving dad that he is, enlists the help of Mentor to guide Telemachus in his absence. Mentor takes the responsibility very seriously and is determined to "put heart" into Telemachus by teaching him to become a leader in the assembly, take care of his mother and watch over all that Ulysses owns. Hence, we get the concept of mentoring.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and we find that Webster's dictionary defines a mentor as "a wise and trusted teacher or counselor." Now that's what I'm talking about--particularly the "wise and trusted" part.

I look at our young Airmen and realize that we are creating the beginnings of hundreds of Air Force careers every year. I believe we have a responsibility to do far more than give them a uniform to wear and a job to do. We need to mentor them about the profession of arms and inspire them to be the best Airmen they can be.

Our young officers and enlisted members represent a bright and promising generation -- they are the future Air Force, and we must fully invest ourselves in them.

I encourage every squadron and every flight to set up programs to establish professional mentoring relationships between younger members and those more experienced. Exposing young Airmen to leadership opportunities and community service activities, and creating venues that allow more senior NCOs, civilians and officers to share their experiences is a lot of what mentoring is all about.

Treating every Airman as a vital member of the team, recognizing their contributions and showing them that we all live by the same high standards helps them connect to the high calling of military service. Also, tapping into senior leader perspectives from across the base can provide visibility into where the Air Force is going and help our young Airmen understand how they fit in.

The overarching goal of mentoring is quite simple: to create a legacy of leadership for our profession.

Mentoring is tough work; it's certainly not being a sugar daddy by making things happen for someone. It's providing keen insights, sound advice, honest opinions and tough love. Mentoring demands a long-term relationship with a long-term focus. The mentoring relationships we establish today will hopefully endure for years, and there is no greater gift we can give our organization than to mentor someone who will someday fill our shoes and do a better job than we did.

So let's roll up our sleeves and see if we can't "put heart" into every young Airman that comes our way and make a difference in their lives as they make a difference for our country.