Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program hosts final ‘checkpoint’ of 2021

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Facilitators gather feedback, look ahead to next year

The 2021 Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program closed out the year with a “4th-Quarter Checkpoint,” allowing civilian and military participants to reflect on lessons learned from a series of guest speakers who shared their experiences.

Sharon Heilmann, Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program manager for the 88th Force Support Squadron’s Workforce Development Element, hosted the virtual checkpoint Sept. 23 with over 70 participants.

Guest speakers were Lansen Conley, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Logistics and Logistics Services director, and Joe Nalepka, director of the Management Operations Directorate at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing. Both discussed their experiences as mentors and the importance of feedback in the workplace.

The mentoring program promotes professional development and growth for both mentors and mentees. Mentors can shape the leaders of tomorrow while mentees get career guidance and expand their networking.

Conley, a longtime mentor, described a lesson early in his career shortly after he became a squadron commander on active duty.

“The second day on the job in a key leadership position, I realized I was not adequately prepared for certain aspects of this new leadership role,” he recalled. “At that point, I decided I would make sure those who might replace me would be prepared through structured mentoring. The Wright-Patterson mentoring program continues that same effort.

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Lansen Conley, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Logistics and Logistics Services director, was one of two guest speakers during the Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program’s “4th-Quarter Checkpoint” on Sept. 23. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Lansen Conley, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Logistics and Logistics Services director, was one of two guest speakers during the Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program’s “4th-Quarter Checkpoint” on Sept. 23. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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Lansen Conley, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Logistics and Logistics Services director, was one of two guest speakers during the Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program’s “4th-Quarter Checkpoint” on Sept. 23. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“Being a mentor is an investment, an investment in the future of the organization, an investment in each individual that conveys to them that they are valuable and they have potential. The W-P Mentoring Program is important to develop and equip those leaders who will replace our current leaders.”

Individuals looking for mentors must be receptive to feedback and be prepared to hear things they may not want to hear, Conley stressed.

He said mentor feedback is important and helps mentees identify areas that need improvement. Mentors can provide observations, guidance and ask thought-provoking questions that point people toward success.

Mentoring since 2007, Nalepka spoke of how a nursery rhyme, “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and the line “E, I, O” can reinforce mentoring and professional development.

The “E” is for experience, gained from your job. “I” is the initiative you take to improve your shortcomings and weaknesses. Lastly, “O” is for the opportunity to use your experience and initiative to make yourself marketable and competitive for that next career step.

“All of us want to think we are perfect in everything we do. In reality, that is clearly not the case. Many times, we know when we have fallen short with something, whether it be personally or professionally,” Nalepka said.

“Other times, we are blind to those shortcomings. Feedback is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves through the lens that others view us. Honest and candid feedback can be used to help us grow, both personally and professionally. That feedback will also help better prepare and enable us to achieve our career goals.”

It’s important for mentees to understand the importance of making connections with both peers and senior leaders, he added. The mentoring program will allow participants to do just that.

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Joe Nalepka, director of the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Management Operations Directorate, discussed mentoring, professional development ideas, experience, initiative and opportunity during the Sept. 23 virtual checkpoint. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Joe Nalepka, director of the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Management Operations Directorate, discussed mentoring, professional development ideas, experience, initiative and opportunity during the Sept. 23 virtual checkpoint. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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Joe Nalepka, director of the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Management Operations Directorate, discussed mentoring, professional development ideas, experience, initiative and opportunity during the Sept. 23 virtual checkpoint. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“We had over 200 mentors and mentees from across all major units on base who participated in this year’s program,” Heilmann said. “We’ve received tremendous support from military and civilian leaders across the base, as well as from our local academic partners, who have volunteered their time as guest speakers during our quarterly mentoring checkpoints.”

This year’s lineup included Col. Patrick Miller, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander; Greg Leingang, 88 ABW vice director; Dr. Corey Seemiller, Generation Z researcher, author and professor; Randy Koram, chief of the Logistics and Logistics Services Directorate’s Product Support Division at AFLCMC; and Amanda Smith-Netthercott and Randy Parker, both of Air Force Materiel Command headquarters.

In May, Team Wright-Patt Mentoring Program administrators sent a survey to all program participants from the past four years. Heilmann said results showed that outcomes important to mentees were increased networking and contacts to advance their careers, getting career guidance and learning how to be a mentor.

According to the survey, mentors valued intrinsic rewards gained from helping others, as well as playing a role in shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

Survey responses also were used to modify the 2022 program to six-month formal segments, running from January to June and July to December. Next year’s kickoff at Wright-Patt will coincide with National Mentoring Month in January.

The Education and Training Section has opened enrollment for the January to June portion. The voluntary opportunity is open to all Wright-Patterson Air Force Base military and civilian personnel (excluding contractors).

For registration details, send an email to 88FSSFSDEDMentoringProgram@us.af.mil or Sharon Heilmann at sharon.heilmann.1@us.af.mil.

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