Airman and Mentor Network: An Eight-Week Journey

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Clare Werner
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing

I am Airman 1st Class Clare Werner, a public affairs specialist assigned to the 92nd Air Refueling Wing. I’m new to the Air Force – I’ve only been in for a little over a year – and I recently graduated from the Airman and Mentor Network program at Fairchild Air Force Base.

AMN is an eight-week program guided by seven noncommissioned officers who act as mentors to Airmen who have been selected for the program. Their purpose is to give the Airmen different outlooks on work and personal situations and provide them opportunities to have discussions with Airmen in other Air Force career fields.

I took interest in AMN when I heard about it from another public affairs Airman. I thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity to be able to connect with other career fields in a more personal sense, rather than the work-related way we normally do as PA. A few months after learning the program existed, I received an email saying I had been nominated to be in the next class! I was extremely excited reading through the email and started to look forward to meeting new people and being able to discuss various topics each week.

I felt a sense of nervousness when I walked into the education center searching for the room in which the program was held. Once I arrived at the upstairs area of the education center, I was greeted by Tech. Sgt. Tony Guinn, who had a giant welcoming smile on his face. I was the first Airman to arrive, which felt a little weird, but everyone else began to show up a few minutes later.

As a part of our first class, the Airmen and mentors introduced and stated some facts about ourselves. Then we took turns sharing two truths and a lie about ourselves. These activities helped break the ice between us since it can be odd sitting in a room trying to interact with people you’ve never met before. From this first class, I learned simple facts about the people I would be spending two hours each week with. I was already looking forward to experiencing the whole eight weeks of this class! It made me feel excited to have influences that were outside of my comfort zone.

Normally, working in PA, we are able to interact with people in other squadrons by interviewing or photographing them, but this was a completely different and more personal side of it. I already felt like my world was opening up a little bit more after being on this base for just four months.

The second week’s theme was perspective. The mentors gave us different workplace scenarios that would allow us to see the way NCOs must handle certain aspects of leadership. Issues like scheduling and manning can easily get convoluted and cause Airmen to feel unappreciated and overworked; this activity gave us a little bit of insight to show that there is usually a lot more going on behind the scenes than we think.

By far, my favorite week was week four. During this class, the mentors gave us several topics to take sides and debate for or against. These topics ranged widely from silly ones like boneless or bone-in wings to more serious ones like the death penalty being legal. It was very interesting for me to hear each side of these, even for the silly topics. It made me think in ways I normally don’t. It’s easy to get stuck in a certain way of thinking if you’re never given another point of view, so I always try to be open to all perspectives.

The fifth week was also very interesting for me. It was about teamwork, leadership and diversity. We all took an online test called ‘5 Voices’ which categorized your personality into either one or a mixture of two voices. These ranged from people who are very direct to people who lead with a more emotional approach. It was interesting to see how the class was scattered between all five voices. The mentors then gave some scenarios to gauge different reactions among the different voice groups. This lesson was so insightful and enabled me to learn how people with completely opposite personalities may butt heads because they see solutions to things on different sides of the spectrum.

As we neared the end of the course, all of us Airmen were assigned a noncommissioned officer who was attending the Airpower Leadership Academy at the same time. We were assigned to interview the NCO, asking them whatever questions we would like to learn from them. We presented what we learned from the interview during our last class of AMN.

Overall, I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to be in this program. I feel like I was able to learn a lot about the perspectives of other shops. Along with this, I was able to take what I learned during these classes and apply it to my work in my office space. It helped me to think in ways that I normally don’t so I could realize there might be multiple reasons to explain why people do the things they do; it could come their history, their way of thinking, their personality type, etc.

I always love any opportunity that allows me to speak my voice but also hear others’ opinions at the same time. By the end of the program, I felt that I had learned so much from both the Airmen and the mentors who had participated with me. It felt so refreshing to be involved in something where Airmen could learn from mentors and vice versa. I wish there was something like this that could continuously go on instead of it having to end after a set amount of time.

I would encourage anyone who has a similar view about seeing different perspectives and being open to hearing others’ opinions to ask their leadership about this program. I feel that there is so much value in having the opportunity to get involved in programs like this.