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What is mentorship?

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer & Staff Sgt. Mathew Harris
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

What is mentorship? Images may come to mind of a formal, rigid process in which an Airman gets assigned to study under a superior. However, the Air Force Mentoring Program states it’s more about a relationship in which one person guides and develops another person both personally and professionally.

The Air Force doctrine emphasizes it not only helps mission success, but also helps Airmen reach their goals. If those two things are important, perhaps mentorship is worth looking into.

Master Sgt. Brent Bixby, the airfield management superintendent with the 182nd Operations Support Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, wasn’t assigned a mentee. He found one while on temporary duty 4,800 miles from home.

“We deployed to Poland for Atlantic Resolve and then to do the [State Partnership Program] with Poland, and Sergeant Miller was our [aircrew flight equipment] person and Lt. Col. Hermann, myself and Sergeant Miller were in a car together,” Bixby said.

The trio would drive into the air base every morning, and Bixby would take it upon himself to offer Miller words of wisdom unrelated to his career field. The two 182nd Operations Support Squadron Airmen found a common personal ground in that Bixby’s wife was Canadian and Miller was in a relationship with a Polish woman.

Bixby took him under his wing, and every day they still meet at the coffee pot and talk about how things are going.

“We talk anything and everything, and just ‘How are you?’” Bixby said. “That’s that whole piece of that mentoring.”

For Bixby, mentorship is about being able to share decades of military and life experiences to help develop someone who wants to learn and grow.

Miller says a key element of that mentorship is trust.

“When you have a full trust for somebody – trust to give you the right advice, to put you on the right track – I think that’s when a mentorship really opens up and blossoms,” he said.

Mentorship doesn’t have to be solely career-field related. It can also be guidance on navigating life in general.

“It’s always really, really important to have somebody you can say ‘Hey, okay, he can help me through the job, that person can help me through life in the military. That person can also help me and has been through maybe the same similar problems I have,” Miller said.

“If you’re a motivated individual who wants to rise up through the organization, get a good mentor and they will definitely help you along the way,” Bixby said.

Airmen who don’t know where to start the process of finding a mentor can visit MyVector at https://afvec.langley.af.mil/myvector. There, they can find local or worldwide mentors based on search criteria including professional experience and personal life.