From the Twisted Mind of Doctrine Man – Are You My Mentor?

DoctrineMan is one of my daily must reads. His facebook profile is  a constant source of wit and wisdom. Turns out, he also has a tumblr blog. Why he didn’t go with WordPress, I don’t know, but hey, at least it’s a blog.

Mentoring is a topic that receives a lot of attention in the military. Younger leaders can often be heard speaking out on the lack of quality mentorship within the ranks, while more seasoned leaders tend to find the time commitment involved burdensome. It occurs, but at nowhere near the frequency desired. Is there an easy answer? Probably not. But maybe we’re not asking the right question.

via From the Twisted Mind of Doctrine Man – Are You My Mentor?.

Formal mentoring wasn’t really in place for enlisted soldiers, and junior NCOs when I was in. But almost every NCO had the good sense to listen to wiser and older heads. I’ve had mentors both in my chain of command (well, the enlisted chain of support), and outside.  Some advice was simple, about leading troops, other advice was complex about navigating the petty politics of a company or battalion. At any rate, I can assure you that an informal mentoring program was a lot easier, and more effective, than a metric laden check-the-box top-down formal program.

Maybe some of those officers could learn something from the NCO corps? What say you folks on the “O” side of the divide?


5 thoughts on “From the Twisted Mind of Doctrine Man – Are You My Mentor?”

  1. I have been following DM on facebook for a few months. I was never in the Army nor an officer, but I get what he is saying in the comic strip. Well, most of the time. The DM poker chips are great. I have both and love the “Blue Falcon” chip. I wish I had some to pass out, back in the day.

  2. Mentoring is valuable, but is relatively scarce, as defined and described, being a long-term personal relationship. Everyone has people that they can call and ask questions of, but few “relationships.” What many consider mentoring, but is in reality “coaching” as DM refers to, is the casual, generally work-related time taken by seniors to teach and coach subordinates on how to do it right. This is criticial and an abject failure in my opinion, based on watching it for 5 “E” years and just under 18 “O” years. I have made it a personal mission to buck that trend. In my last job, I was told by a captain who was exiting the service, that I was the only field grade who had ever taken the time to talk to him (by this point he had worked for between 8 and 12). This is one reason he was getting out. This is unconscionable, and one reason why everyone hates, and few trust, the mid-grade leadership; I tell all my students this story. I knew one guy who took the “I’ll mark on this piece of paper three times in red, at which time I will give it back to you to figure out how to fix everything and try again” approach. Great leader, bad coaching technique. The problem with mentoring/coaching is that it takes time away from both participants, so one side is reluctant to give it, and the other sees it as you taking time away from them, until they go somewhere else and see what it is like to struggle with no help. Plus, there are those that tell subordinates to “do” but have no idea how to do it, and so cannot provide any meaningful feedback.

  3. Sadly Brad, I was only a poor E-5, but my mentoring experience was different than most. I had good NCOs to look up to, but they were few and far between. Because, you see… I was MI. And for some reason, back biting and pettiness were the watchwords of the day. I actually had a squad leader who LAUGHED because she had a member of her squad get kicked out of the Army for poor PT performance. I wanted to slap the taste out of her mouth. Her JOB was to train her soldiers and get them up to standards, not to gloat in their misfortune. And that kind of thing was hardly an isolated type incident. My “mentoring” was watching these people to learn how NOT to be an NCO. I resolved to learn from their mistakes so I wouldn’t be a soup sandwich of a leader like they were.

  4. I started in the Air Guard as an E1, went to OCS and came back the nominal boss of the same senior NCOs I had worked for initially. One of them then got through OCS and came back as a Captain and my boss again! This sort of path is generally unique to the Guard and not available to most in any case.

    I never lost my respect for those guys and maybe earned some of theirs. I sought and was favored with their counsel. Their guidance, though not always offered as such, was every bit as valuable as what I gleaned from the several officers in the squadron.

    After I got back from pilot training, these same war horses were still running Maintenance. My experience in the reserve forces has been that a special comradeship exists among the pilots and flight line maintainers. It’s one of my favorite tokens of that time. I learned all I needed about respectful leadership from having experienced good and poor leaders from both ends. The senior fellow has only to be open to it.

  5. I can’t remember the actual title, but the guy was the command WO for Aviation (he was a CW5). He was beating on mentorship in one issue of Army Aviation and allowed a guest article by a guy whose father was an AF NCO that said AF Warrant Officers were just “pay problems with a mustache,” or something to that effect. He was afraid that the lack of mentoring was going to severely damage the Army WO corps. While things have changed over the years, but the WO corps is still going strong, and I doubt things will change for the foreseeable future, if for no other reason that WO Pilots are still needed.

    The AF killed WOs for social reasons, not because they weren’t needed. My father had just become eligible when they killed them, and he resented it. I sat next to a retired A-10 driver on the way to new Mexico about a year and half ago, and he was of the opinion that the AF was going to be forced to accept WOs again. The upcoming cuts may put that off for a bit, however.

    My observation of my, and other professions, is that mentors are required regardless. We may not call them that, but they have to exist or the transmission of institutional memory is interrupted. One major problem, and it is already causing major trouble, is the lack of them in the military, and combined with the current PC environment, will be deadly in the long run. The coed environment in the military has already severely weakened the force, and the corrosion continues.

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