An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Mentoring Matters

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Terry Bailey
  • 43rd Medical Support Squadron Commander
There are a lot of people who have come to hate the word mentoring ... it's become a buzz word, a cliché. 

When you Google the word mentoring, you will find more than 14,200,000 results. It's been my experience that the word is often over used and abused, and the action of mentoring isn't done enough. It really does make a difference when you are mentored and when you are not. 

We all have challenges, successes and failures in our life; and often time, it is mentoring that makes the difference between success and failure -- the easy road or the long hard road. 

For most, mentoring begins at home with your family -- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or members of your community, such as teachers, pastors, or neighbors. 

I credit my success to the love of my family and friends, hard work, perseverance, the grace of God and great mentoring from supervisors, colleagues, and coworkers. I want to share how my mentors groomed and help shape me and my career. 

My first Air Force supervisor was the Nurse Manager and I now call him the "Protector." As a brand new second lieutenant in the Air Force, I didn't have a clue about military life and I was slow adapting to the military lifestyle. He often protected me from the Chief Nurse. 

The Chief Nurse gave up on me, I didn't fit her mold and she quickly ran out of patience with me. The "Protector" understood where I was and what I needed. 

He mentored me and unlike everyone else, he gave me a chance. He was always calm in his approach and many times I didn't even realize when I was being counseled. Soon I bonded with my fellow nurses and medical technicians in the unit. 

They showed me the ropes (mentored me) and we became a solid team. We stuck together like glue; it was us against any and everyone else. Ironically, at my last assignment, I was fortunate enough to serve with four of six of them again. 

They were all now civilians working in the clinic and I was blessed to have become their Chief Nurse. They mentored me and now it was my job to mentor them. Mentoring matters. 

As I reflect on the mentoring I've received, the lessons learned are invaluable. I'll share a few quotes from my past supervisors: 

"There are politics in every job, don't ignore them." 

"It is not your boss's fault if they don't know how good you are. If they are not savvy enough to figure it out, be creative and find ways to let them know how valuable you are." 

"Nurses can do anything; don't limit yourself to typical nursing jobs." 

"Airmanship is about service, you work for the people you command." 

"Reflect and learn from mistakes and force yourself to look at the other side." 

"Don't expect everyone to work as hard as you do." 

"If your people are on the right side of an issue, stand up for them. Don't sacrifice them."
"Finish the race; don't quit." 

"It is not all about you." 

"The power of one is alive and well; speak out."
"Look at the big picture. Prioritize and get the most bang for your buck." 

"Taking care of your people truly does take care of the mission." 

It was these pearls of wisdom, and many more, that's made a difference in my career and my life. Unfortunately I hear too often from Air Force members, "I've never been mentored." Perhaps some truly don't understand the concept of mentoring and believe they aren't being mentored, but I suspect that's probably the minority. 

The sad fact is that mentoring has become a cliché for way too many. Mentoring is the difference between just working hard and working hard with the playbook and rules of the game. Mentoring matters to all of us... active duty, civilians, Reserves, officer and enlisted regardless of rank or job title. 

Be a mentor. Don't wait for someone to ask you to mentor them. Don't wait to be approached by a mentor. Don't assume mentoring is occurring in your workplace.
Be proactive, and make a positive difference in someone's career. It is your job to develop our future force. Mentoring matters. Individual Actions Matter.