Leaders stress taking time to invest in others

72nd Air Base Wing Vice Commander Col. Thomas Brown speaks to members of the Civilian Mentoring Council July 26. Other panel members included, from left, 72nd ABW Director of Staff Bob Sandlin, 72nd ABW Command Chief Master Sgt. Melissa Erb and Dr. Keith Hardiman, with the 72nd ABW’s Communications Directorate.

72nd Air Base Wing Vice Commander Col. Thomas Brown speaks to members of the Civilian Mentoring Council July 26. Other panel members included, from left, 72nd ABW Director of Staff Bob Sandlin, 72nd ABW Command Chief Master Sgt. Melissa Erb and Dr. Keith Hardiman, with the 72nd ABW’s Communications Directorate. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Four of Tinker Air Force Base’s senior leaders gave their own insights on mentorship advice at the Civilian Mentoring Council’s July 26 event in the base theater. Each of the leaders had the same goal in mind: take the time to help that next generation of leaders and innovators.

The Air Force’s most valuable resource is its people. Take care of them, and they will take care of the mission. That was the common theme pressed by the panel.

The hour-long session was about being adaptable and pushing yourself to go out of your comfort zone. The range of topics included everything from how to be a good mentor and mentee to ribbon charts of success.

Col. Thomas Brown, 72nd Air Base Wing vice commander, kicked things off, giving the room full of military and civilian Airmen a brief background on his life experiences. As a third-generation military officer and ROTC graduate of Tuskegee University, the colonel said he felt enormous pressure to live up to the expectation and high bar that had been set before him. What helped him stay the course was having the resource of a mentor, committing to regular engagements and honing in skill sets to reach those lofty goals before him.

He emphasized the importance of “sit-down mentoring,” a form he considers essential in being a successful mentor or mentee.

“What you say to someone or what someone says to you in passing may stick with you,” the vice commander said. “But where you really see the benefits of having a mentor is in the one-on-one, closed-door, phones-off situations. Those are the relationships that thrive. You must be open and honest and pure.”

Echoing those sentiments, Bob Sandlin, 72nd ABW director of staff, discussed the importance of education and going above and beyond to progress in a job series, career and life. He urged the audience to find ways to make a supervisor’s job easier, as well as find ways to volunteer and further qualify for other jobs and opportunities.

Chief Erb stressed the importance of having a passion for people and investing in them.

“I had a lot of people invest in me and see potential in me,” Erb said. “I’ve been blessed to have been surrounded by incredible people who invested their time to take care of me and take me out of my comfort zone. Those people have helped put me in the position I’m in today.”

In addition to investing in people, Erb encouraged her mentees to not shy away from asking questions and seeking feedback. Whether it’s the lowest level Airman or her boss, 72nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Kenyon Bell, the chief discussed how critical candid feedback can be to improve.

Lastly, Dr. Keith Hardiman, director of the 72nd ABW Communications Directorate, encouraged the audience to pay it forward.

“No one in this room is here by themselves. People have helped you get to where you are, and now it’s your turn to give back,” said Hardiman, who started his career with the Jumpstart Program, a variation of what is now the Tinker Internship Program.

Hardiman has worked his way up the proverbial ladder from a GS-4. Not only is it about who you have supporting you, he said, but being eager to learn and having a good attitude will also help you succeed.

The Civilian Mentoring Council is a program developed to pair mentors and mentees together, based on hobbies, interests, backgrounds and career fields. To apply for the program or for more information, contact Eb Bauer at 739-5078.