Commentary: Words of a mentor and mentee

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Justin Graham and Airman 1st Class Alberto Bonilla
  • 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 54th Maintenance Squadron

Airman Leadership School class 17-3, prepared lunch and mentored Holloman Air Force Base's newest Airmen on March 16, 2017, I, Staff Sgt. Justin Graham, was the First Term Airman Center luncheon coordinator.

During this opportunity my fellow soon to be non-commissioned officers and I provided answers and guidance for the Airmen. We were able to get to know each one on a personal level, and help with questions regarding the Air Force and Holloman Air Force Base.

We learned what Airmen like to do for fun and standards they would like their supervisors to hold. A variety of the Airmen’s hobbies included reading books, playing video games, adrenaline pumping mountain biking and jogging. The standards that Airmen want NCO’s to be accountable for are showing interest, providing guidance and feedback. Taking the information gathered from your Airmen can help you step up to becoming a great NCO and supervisor. This also assists in the establishment of a good rapport between the Airman and NCO.

Some of the ALS students met FTA with the same duty title but assigned to a different squadron. This cross squadron get-together enhanced the luncheons impact. When it comes to job specialties we may have the same duty title, but each shop has its own unique process to accomplish the mission. An event such as this, opens the lines of communication and gives a better understanding of other shops. An Airman that is new to the career field, and a soon to be NCO can share their story. The NCO can share experiences and answer questions about their journey to get where they are in their career. The Airman has a chance to ask questions pertaining to getting tasks accomplished, deployments or about the general career field.

As future NCOs we picked up on the importance of getting to know your Airmen. This is one of the most important things we learned in ALS. We all have a mission to accomplish. The process to accomplish that mission can be a rough one, but to help overcome barriers you need a high moral, sense of purpose, and a support system. Telling someone to work that does not respect you versus having someone who wants to work for you because of the rapport you share, makes a huge difference in effectively accomplishing the mission. It is the act of caring that can give Airmen a sense of purpose in a world that asks so much from them.

Early in our careers, most of us went through the FTAC. This mentorship opportunity was not available to us, and I wish it was. Sitting down and enjoying a lunch while mentoring new Airmen was a pleasure. I really hope this is a standard across all bases.

The luncheon is a true learning experience for Airmen starting their careers at their first base and a wonderful start down the mentoring avenue for soon to be NCOs. On behalf of the ALS class 17-3, I proudly say that we thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the new Airmen.


On March 16, 2017, I, Airman 1st Class Alberto Bonilla – mentee, attended a mentorship lunch as a new Airman at my first base with ALS students. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word sergeant in Latin translate to “one who serves”. All Airmen serve however, as we grow with time and rank, our responsibilities increase. ALS is crucial to the enlisted force structure, transforming Senior Airmen into brand new supervisors ready to take on leadership positions in their workplace.

During the FTAC and ALS mentorship luncheon, I was able to talk and spend time with future supervisors gaining insight into their thoughts.

When asked what they expect from new a new Airman who will soon be under their guidance, their answers were unanimous. They expect Airmen to always maintain proper dress and appearance. Being an Airmen is not just doing a job, it is doing the job while proudly representing the Air Force. Second we are expected to show initiative in upgrade training and be eager, efficient, and ask questions when uncertain. We must understand that technical training was just the beginning of our professional growth.  ALS students stressed the importance of feedback. Both positive and negative feedback enhances our understanding of the tasks presented to us. Feedback also helps us understand the strengths and weaknesses of helping to improve our character and our organization’s mission. Additionally, we should be involved with the base and community. Networking and volunteering are both important for being successful.

Supervisors are expected to excel at their occupational duties. They should also be a beacon of positive leadership, morality and guidance for Airmen. Seeing the smiles and eagerness on their faces during the luncheon shows that they are ready and excited for this challenge.