The Roles of Mentors During the Air Force’s Transformation

The Roles of Mentors During the Air Force’s Transformation

During the past few years, the Department of Defense and Air Force’s senior leaders have focused their efforts on the topic of Air Force transformation. According to the Air Force Pentagon (2006), transformation is the “process by which the military achieves and maintains an advantage through changes in operational concepts, organization, and/or technologies that significantly improve its war fighting capabilities or ability to meet the demands of a changing security environment.”

Many military personnel understand that we live in an evolving society. Nothing is constant in life… everything changes! If society changes, the military has to evolve as well as updating or modernizing its modus operandi. The Air Force needs the latest of the latest, updated policies and processes, modernized technology and weapons systems in order to maintain its air power and dominance. However, there are people that are reactive, skeptics, and do not like changes, believing that there is no need for change and innovation. They are use to following a constant life and career, while other groups of workers look for a better career status in their lives. However, here is when the Air Force mentor comes in; to save the mentees from the oppression of life and to help them develop the skills needed to face the Air Force transformation by enhancing the attitudes and aptitudes focused on survival.

This paper was developed to fulfill such organizational need. It is based on a literature review focused on mentoring and the roles of mentors. There are two main sections: (1) What is Mentorship? (2) The Roles of Air Force Mentors. The first section will discuss mentorship as a concept, providing particular information for a better comprehension of its meaning and mission. The second section will provide information on the roles of Air Force mentors, and how they may be able to help other military personnel in facing today’s Air Force changes, famously called Air Force transformation within the military organization.

What is Mentorship?

Mentorship refers to “a developmental relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced partner… used to groom up-and-coming employees deemed to have the potential to move up into leadership roles” (Mentorship, 2006). Today’s organizations use mentoring to nurture its employees, to help them grow professionally and personally, and to promote learning within the organization (Hankin, 2004). Mentoring is “the synthesis of ongoing events, experiences, observations, studies, and thoughtful analyses” (Freeman, n.d.). It is “one of the oldest forms of human development… the sharing and ultimate transferring of information, knowledge, skills, and/or know-how from one generation to another… [Mentoring] laid the basic foundations for early civilizations” (Rigotti, 1997, p. 9).

Mentorship in Society

For years, societal groups such as churches, schools, and colleges have focused mentorship programs on careers and personal development. It has been used to deal mostly with poverty concerns. Because of this, mentoring has been an outstanding way to serve and impact others lives by providing a path to improve societal efficiency and effectiveness, while achieving greater diversity among people. Today’s corporate world mirrors the same idea by helping other organizational employees achieve their ideal dream in achieving successful careers. According to Baldwin and Garry (1997), successful careers can be attained by fomenting successful mentoring programs. These programs must include the following: screening, orientation, training, support, and supervision. Mentoring programs can be used to fulfill variety of social, personal, and organizational issues. Furthermore, employees “could also benefit from the special bond of mentoring before serious problems develop” (p. 6).Mentorship as a Transition Tool

Mentoring is like a spider web, it may go up and down or from side to side. For example, it goes up when a new employee mentors an experienced worker on technology matters; or it goes from side to side when employees relate common learning, knowledge, experiences, and skill sets with his or her fellow coworkers within the organization. Hankin (2004) believes that mentors and mentees must be matched according to their personality types and attitudes, not based on cultural or demographic similarity. By following this concept, the interpersonal relationship will strengthen the employee’s creative thinking skills, while fostering “a culture of respect and sharing” (p. 197) in the workplace. The encouragement and promotion of fundamental values provide for rewards and the employee’s integrative learning. This is taking place in the Air Force by the provision of a smooth transitioning process for all Airmen, no matter if military personnel are transitioning from complicated situations. Most military personnel understand that most lessons learned are based on resource-constrained environments. However, according to Rigotti (1997), mentoring is becoming more important in today’s Air Force shaping, because it “can be an effective tool to meet the needs of today’s United States Air Force and airmen.” Everything depends on how the Air Force mentors use the process of mentoring. Mentors must comprehend that mentoring is utilized to orient, indoctrinate, and educate Airmen about the military environment and their roles in it.

Mentorship from a Humanist Standpoint

Gordon Shea (as cited by Rigotti, 1997), provides a humanist point of view of mentoring. He defines mentoring as “a developmental, caring, sharing, and helping relationship where one person invests time, know-how, and effort in enhancing another person’s growth, knowledge, and skills, and responds to critical needs in the life of that person in ways that prepare the individual for greater productivity or achievement in the future” (p. 10). Mentoring is considered as the path for a long-time personal and professional relationship, providing and fulfilling the basic spiritual and psychological human needs in support and development of today and future loyal employees. The process of mentoring can be used to instruct organizational culture, technical expertise, creative problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills.

Rigotti (1997) introduces Dr. David Hunt, author of Mentoring: The Right Tool for the Right Job on page 23. According to Dr. Hunt, formal mentoring programs must follow six critical elements in order to respond to the mentees’ basic needs, for example: (a) Mentoring programs must have “clear strategic goals which are established and understood by all organizational members.” (b) The program must have a “method to carefully select mentors.” (c) It should “provide for confidentiality between the mentor and mentee.” (d) Participants must be “trained with the skills needed to be successful mentors or mentees.” (e) The mentor and mentee must “understand the importance of being politically savvy.” (f) There must be “someone responsible for monitoring and assessing the status of the organization’s planned mentoring efforts.”