Viewpoints: All because of my mentors

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The words, ‘U.S. Air Force’ are sewn into my jacket that I wear every day, because of my mentors.

Each stage of life requires role models to help you along the way, and it is no different in the professional world. In 8th grade, I went to Colorado on a family vacation, and my parents took me to see the United States Air Force Academy. We went there because it was a tourist spot, but little did we know that it would change my life forever.

While sitting in class in the 9th grade, I saw that a representative from USAFA was coming to our career center and I went. The recruiter had never seen a 9th grader show up to the event, and he knew I had to be serious. The colonel, my mentor, helped me for four years get into USAFA, and mentored me about what things to focus on in high school. He made sure my application was competitive. After getting into USAFA, which I never thought was possible, I told myself I had to go and was ready for the challenge.

While at USAFA, I needed mentors to help me get through the academics, provide me with advice about Air Force careers, and teach me how to lead and be an Air Force officer. My mentors could be contacted at any time, and they helped me get through the toughest four years of my life. Walking across the stage and shaking President Barack Obama’s hand was one of the greatest days of my life, and I could not have done it without every bit of feedback and advice from my mentors.

After USAFA, I owed the Air Force five years as an Acquisitions Program Manager Officer. While going through the last couple years of the Academy and for the first few years of being a lieutenant, I thought I was going to “five and dive” -- meaning get out after my five-year commitment. My mentors are the reason I am still in uniform and will continue to serve my country. That’s due to their guidance, passed along to myself and to my wife along the way. My wife Michelle and I made a decision for me to continue to serve because of our interactions with senior leaders and their spouses at multiple ceremonies or lunches. Michelle and I were able to discuss marriage, serving, moving, careers, etc., with those senior leaders.

It is important to find multiple mentors and to receive as many opinions about major decisions as possible. Use the knowledge and advice from those that have come before you.