Mentorship comes in various forms, and whether it is advice from a friend, a parent or a co-worker, it is about sharing experiences and knowledge that will help guide someone through obstacles in life or career.
Often, women look for mentors to help them navigate challenges in a predominately male environment such as the Army. As they compete for duty positions, promotions and recognition as Soldiers, women in the Army seek the advice of their leaders and peers to help them. But some ask, what does it take to be a mentor?
Female officers and noncommissioned officers of the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, gathered to explore answers to this question and learn how to develop their mentorship skills as they kicked off their Women’s Mentorship Program at Simmons Army Airfield, Oct. 8.
“We wanted to create a forum for women to be able to talk and be heard when dealing with various issues they might be facing as they start their careers in the Army,” said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Wearin, 122nd ASB. “We wanted them to know they are not alone and don’t have to deal with problems in silence.”
In order to optimize and ensure the cohesiveness of the program, women will be assigned a mentor, outside of their chain of command, upon arriving to the unit. This will allow the mentors to offer counsel and advice without directly interfering with the Soldiers’ careers.
“We want our mentees to grow within their units and learn to utilize their chain of command to help solve problems with the understanding that we are here for them to help answer questions and guide them as they grow,” said Wearin.
To help them understand how to open the lines of communication between the women within their units, the group welcomed Sarah Naradzay, a faculty member with the Fort Bragg Social Work Intern Program.
“It is about relationship building, developing confidence and identifying objectives,” said Naradzay. “The key in mentoring is to give them the tools, but allow them to make their own choices.”
One of the goals of the workshop was to help junior troopers learn how to further their careers.
“I know that when I came in the Army, one of my struggles was promotions. So helping my Soldiers, not just the women but all of them, achieve their goals is my main focus,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sheranda Phillips, 122nd ASB. “What I have realized all these years is that women need someone they can lean on as they come through the ranks in the Army and this program will help us to better help them.”
The women are learning how to use their experiences, strengths and weaknesses as they deal with biases in a competitive and changing environment.
“I did not have this type of program when I joined the Army six years ago,” said Sgt. Maria Parker, 122nd ASB. “I think this training will help me see things from different angles and perspectives, and help me lose the biases that I have developed.”
The women all agreed that this is just a beginning and said they hope this type of program continues as they work to develop a stronger and more cohesive working environment.
“It’s about fostering relationships that will allow our troopers to grow and become confident in their role,” said Lt. Col. Gail Atkins, commander of the 122nd ASB. “It is all about the betterment of the organization.”