Military Mentoring Programs

The Department of Defense Business Mentoring Program

The Department of Defense (DoD) Pilot Mentor-Protégé Program seeks to encourage major DoD prime contractors (mentors) to develop the technical and business capabilities of small disadvantaged businesses and other eligible protégés. The program is managed by the Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs.

The Defense Logistics Agency Business Mentoring Program

The DLA Mentoring Business Program was designed for prime contractors to provide developmental assistance to small business, small disadvantaged business and women owned small business concerns. Prime contractors may also mentor Javits-Wagner-O’Day (JWOD) qualified nonprofit agencies for the blind and other severely disabled. The mentoring company submits a plan that details an agreement between the prime contractor and a small business, small disadvantaged business, women owned small
business concern or JWOD workshop that will participate in carrying out the requirements of the prime contract of the mentoring company. The opportunities must constitute real business growth which is measurable and meaningful.

The US Navy Medical Service Corps Mentoring Program

The Medical Service Corps (MSC) of the US Navy established that mentoring is a key element of leadership and defined mentoring is a primary tool for promoting officer growth, development and professionalism. The Corps has developed and implemented a formal “assisted-mentoring” program guide.

The MSC Program chose to use what they describe as an “assisted” formal mentoring process. They defined the program to reach across all levels and specialties. The program attempts to capture the benefits of a formal program with uniform goals and applications across all settings, while keeping the flexibility of tailoring mentoring to meet the specific needs and goals of the proteges, based on an inventory of the protege’s actual skills measured against desired skills. The flexibility also extends to the adaptations needed in the program to meet the needs of specific command requirements.

Entry level proteges receive a well-rounded orientation and work under the guidance of a senior officer mentor to become familiar with all aspects of the command, network with other developing and senior officers, work in specific projects, and other activities designed to prepare the proteges for command
responsibilities in the future.

The US Air Force Mentoring Program

Originally the US Air Force mentoring approach was limited to development of company level (middle management) officers, with the idea of growing it’s own upper level officers in the process.

Then, on July 1, 2000, the US Air Force and Aerospace Command took what appears to be the most assertive and formal approach to establishing a mentoring program. The Secretary of the US Air Force issued “AF Policy Directive 36-34 Air Force Mentoring Program”. By this step, the Air Force Mentoring Program was expanded beyond company grade officers to include all officers, plus all enlisted and civilian personnel working in the Air Force. The following statement from that directive says it all. “Mentoring is a fundamental responsibility of all Air Force supervisors. They must know their people, accept personal responsibility for them, and be accountable for their professional development.”

The goal of Air Force mentoring is to help each person reach his/her full potential, thereby enhancing the overall professionalism of the Air Force. The intent of this directive was to “infuse all levels of leadership with mentoring to affect a culture change”.

Air Force mentoring covers a wide range of areas, such as career guidance, technical and professional development, leadership, Air Force history and heritage, air and space power doctrine, strategic vision, and contribution to joint warfighting. It also includes knowledge of the ethics of our military and a civil service
professions and understanding of the Air Force’s core values

The mentor’s feedback to the protege should at least include promotion, PME (?), advanced degree work, physical fitness, personal goals and expectations, professional qualities, next assignment, and long-range plans.

The mentoring initiative was further reinforced and implemented by “Air Force Policy Directive (AFPD) 36-34, Air Force Mentoring Program” which provided guidance on how to carry out Air Force Mentoring and training for professional development.

The US Army Mentoring Program

In 1985, General Wickham directed a study be done to determine whether or not to institute an Armywide formal or informal mentoring program. The study looked at the entire Army and collected data from over 14,000 officers and including more than half of the serving general officers.The final study report showed
that 88 percent agreed that the officer should first be a role model and then a mentor and that commanders should be evaluated on the extent to which they develop the officers serving under them. General officers felt the professional development of subordinates was just as much a leader’s responsibility as accomplishing an organizational mission. However, 59 percent of the participants said they had not had a mentor. The report recommended the Army provide an officer professional development program that would include mentoring.

The results of a 2001 report on captain attrition indicated company grade officer attrition in the Army could be attributed to lack of communication between junior officers and their immediate supervisors. This was viewed as an obvious cry for a formal junior office mentoring program.

Mentoring soon became an Army priority when General Wickham designated “leadership” as an Army theme and defined a framework designed to produce more effective Army leaders. The framework revolved around senior leaders challenging all leaders within the Army to be mentors to their subordinates. Mentoring immediately became an Army priority.

(Thanks to the article “Mentorship: Growing Company Grade Officers”, by Hunsinger, in the September-October 2004 issue of Mlitary Review.for some of the above information.)

An interesting segway from the Army mentoring approach occured in November 2000 when General Hornburg, Commander, Air Education and Training Command, gave an address to the Corps of Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute of Lexington, Viginia, USA. The address was titled “Everyone Needs Core Values and Mentors”. This calls for the next program listing.

The Virginia Military Institute Cadet Mentoring Program

Virginia Military Institute of Lexington, Viginia, USA.  From 1999, this program for students at the Virginia Military Institute, has be directed bu Ms. Col. Anna Crockett. This Institute is a college level institution. The program uses upper class level cadets to mentor the lower class cadets. Col. Crockett has presented
about her program at the International Conferences of the International Mentoring Association. Each time, she has also brough leading cadets to the conference to help in their leadership development, and to involve them in giving the presentations.

US Marine Corps Mentoring Program

The earliest form of mentoring was introduced using the TEAM Principle—a USMC model to train, empower, acknowledge, and mentor its junior leaders. This simple, but effective principle taught young marines to become technically and tactically proficient through tough, realistic training on how to be successful on the battlefield. The TEAM principle recommended that mentoring never become formalized because mentoring is simply expressing a personal or professional experience that might enhance another person’s job performance – an “obvious” daily eefort made by professionals.

Later, mentoring is listed as a critical “value” by the User’s Guide to Marine Corps Values of the Marine Corps University. The Commandant’s White Paper 10-95 of May 1995 requested commanding generals, commanding officers, and officers in charge “to take appropriate steps to develop and implement a voluntary, informal mentoring program that allows the opportunity for each officer to be involved throughout his or her career.” The net result then is that the mentoring programs are required to be established by individual commands, but participation in them is voluntary and informal, following guidelines about the proper relationships between juniors and seniors.

The program defines mentoring is a professional association formed to enhance a junior Marine’s professional and personal worth to him/herself and to the Corps. Participation in the program is encouraged by providing information and moral support. They keep a list of volunteers from among the more senior members who are willing to be mentors, and of the interested juniors Corps members who
want to find a mentor.

Only some commands have established programs for mentoring. Where no command-sponsored program exists, mentors and mentees who establish their own “natural” mentoring relationships must adhere to all applicable standards of conduct and regulations for junior/senior professional and personal relationships.

US Coast Guard Mentoring Program

The U.S. Coast Guard initiated a mentoring program in 1991 after a leadership study found that mentoring is a major factor in retaining personnel in an organization. Since its inception, the Coast Guard’s program has undergone some refinement. The program describes itself as “partly formal, partly informal”. This means that there in central, formal encouragement and information which supports a voluntary, less formal “grass roots” development of mentoring by each command station.

The program proudly states that they researched effective mentoring programs and then developed their own program, benchmarking it against the best programs they found. Their structure encourages the mentees to select their own mentor and encourages senior USCG officers to serve as mentors to promote leadership development to create the firture officers the USCG needs to maintain it’s Mission. They feel that by educating people, they will form mentoring partnerships.

Interestingly, the USCG program uses the US Department of Transportation ONE DOT Mentoring Program database of volunteers to help people sign up as mentors and/or search for mentors should a person want a mentor but be unable to find a mentor at their location or want a mentor from across organizational lines.