JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – Randolph, Texas – Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass, along with other senior enlisted leaders, spoke to over 700 virtual attendees during AETC’s Good to Great through Personal Perspectives, a Panel of Mentors event on May 25, 2021.
The panel, sponsored by AETC, also featured Chief Master Sgt. Erik C. Thompson, command chief of AETC, alongside Chief Master Sgts. Keith Castille and Stefan Blazier from Headquarters, Air Force A1D, and addressed the importance of good mentors and what it means to go from good to great, both personally and professionally.
“Encourage those around you and push each other to be better—that’s when greatness happens,” said Bass. “In order to excel as an Airman, you need to surround yourself with growth-oriented people and become one yourself.”
According to Bass, this kind of peer-to-peer, circular mentorship helps Airmen remain in a receiving posture, open to constructive criticism from anyone, and focused on becoming the best versions of themselves.
For example, “Chief Bass helped me realize I have very low emotional intelligence, so I work really hard to ask questions and be more empathetic,” said Thompson. “Understand what you’re not good at and specifically try to stretch those muscles.”
The panel recommended finding a formal or informal mentor who excels where you need growth and will offer honest advice. Thompson recommends once you identify someone, confirm that they have a desire to mentor, will make themselves readily available through frequent communication and are in it for your success. For Bass, many of her mentors were informal, but still had a lasting impact on her.
“It takes a village, we always need to focus on how to become better, how to inspire the people around us towards greatness,” said Bass. “Good leaders help others get better at work, great leaders help others get better at life.”
Each of the panelists stressed the importance of holistic care for yourself and others. They encouraged Airmen to take ownership in their role as a teammate and, no matter their rank, to support their colleagues towards greatness.
“We have got to make sure we’re reaching out and taking care of each other,” said Thompson. “Don’t be afraid to look your coworker in the eye and ask the hard question ‘how are you doing?’”
Those interested in finding a mentor are encouraged to utilize the Air Force mentoring tool, MyVector, when formally selecting a mentor. On MyVector, mentees will be able to, in real-time, invite participants to serve as mentors, select mentors based on preferences, chat with their mentor online, and complete a mentoring plan. Additionally on MyVector, mentees can find the Air Force competencies, a tool for self-development.