Good mentorship fosters confidence, career growth

SCHRIEVER AFB, Colo. -- I'm as average as you can get. I've never really been unusually good at any sport, I can't sing, I'm relatively shy in large groups and I never got the highest grades in school. Even my name blends into the plethora of individuals with the first name "Steve" or last name "Lewis," which is about 25 million if you Google it, but I'm a recipient of mentorship.

It started right from the beginning for me. Tech. Sgt. David Roescher, my supervisor and training manager at the 1st Communications Squadron, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, sat me down and explained the ropes, including the importance of keeping a log of daily accomplishments for the purpose of writing my Enlisted Performance Report. Early on, he provided me the direction and mentorship that helped me navigate the Air Force development process and got me where I am today.

Sergeant Roescher spent his time mentoring the Airmen in our unit. To this day, I still have my training folder, with his initials next to the hundreds of tasks I was trained and evaluated on. 

In addition to training, Sergeant Roescher encouraged his Airmen to get involved in events such as donating blood, volunteering for the air show and other community and Air Force activities.

I remember when one of our Airmen was going before a board for Senior Airman Below-the-Zone or BTZ. Sergeant Roescher challenged each of us to find something for this Airman to do to help make his application stronger. It may not have been our BTZ package, but Sergeant Roescher got the team to take an interest in this Airman's development and it worked. The Airman was selected for BTZ and when the time came, Sergeant Roescher wrote my first EPR that got me the recognition I needed to get picked-up for Officer Training School.

Fast-forward almost four years later; I had been through a stint of not having mentors actively playing a role in my professional development. Relying on my own motivation of doing the best I could, and not screwing things up, I slowly started having doubts about where I was in life, professionally. I was an average missile at F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming. I had kept my nose clean, helped the squadron the best way I knew how and had been taking classes at a university, but things just weren't happening for me. It was getting harder and harder to keep myself motivated. I think we've all been there.

Along came Lt. Col. David Bliesner, a mentor who gave me a chance. He took the squadron under his wing and encouraged each of us to use what skills and abilities we had to make the squadron a success. As the 400th Missile Squadron commander, he gave each of us opportunities to excel. He let our ideas be heard without shooting them down. It was this opportunity that gave me the idea to use what I had been studying in school to develop a Web site to host both the registration for the deactivation ceremony of the Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and sales of Peacekeeper memorabilia for our booster club. 

The success of this project was encouraging and opened the door for other opportunities. I even got the chance to serve as one of the squadron's last flight commanders and deactivate the last historic Peacekeeper ICBM that "won the Cold War."

I will never forget the time that Colonel Bliesner took to motivate me, simply by taking the time to listen to my ideas and giving me the opportunity to execute them.

I consider myself fortunate. I'm an average guy that mentors actually took the time to mentor. I'm writing this because I'm compelled to ensure the mentorship I received doesn't stop with me; I must return the undeserved favor I received. I encourage each of you to find that average Airman who may or may not be feeling "motivated" right now. Take the time to actually mentor him or her, and I guarantee your time will not come-up void. You will discover an invaluable member of your team and create another mentor to continue the legacy of mentorship.