Mentorship is a living, breathing thing. It begins with an introduction, a sharing of ideas, a tutoring based on experience to combine with motivation and energy of the subordinate.
A mentor is a sounding board for ideas. They are someone that you can reach out to when you have a concept for the future. They will give you honest feedback and can also be an advocate on your behalf to others. It is a position that is full of responsibility for both the mentor and the subordinate.
This should never be confused with a reading list. Each military branch is different in its own way, but it seems as though one cannot take two steps without finding themselves introduced to someone else’s mandatory reading list. Within the pages of the books are stories which fit into neatly categorized aspects of military service. There is just one problem: there is no interaction. In almost every case it is not possible to reach out and talk to the writer, to identify why they made the decisions, to understand the stresses they were under, to ask them questions that are not clear within the pages of the book. This is the benefit of an actual mentor.
The mentorship program needs to be more than a series of books. It needs to be interaction. To demonstrate an opportunity for subordinates to attempt, fail, learn, and discuss concepts, while the mentor introduces new ways to look at problems.
One of the most difficult problems facing our military today is that the draw down has resulted in a significant loss of combat experience amongst units. Suddenly the 50-70% of prior deployed service members dropped down in many cases to only a handful. This means that for leaders who are new to the service, they have little to no experience, and their subordinates are just as limited. The benefit of mentoring these junior leaders is that even if they have not seen the concept first hand, they have been introduced to it conceptually. As an example, there are not many people who have fought in a combined battle with naval and ground forces engaging in the same area like the Marines did repeatedly during WWII, but the concepts, considerations, lessons learned, and practical application can be discussed. Mentorship is about keeping the institutional knowledge alive.
This process requires significant input from both parties. The person being mentored must make an effort to critically analyze a problem set. To understand by actively listening and attempting to visualize themselves in this position. By understanding the factors that were involved and by being introduced to a solution, the mentored individual can gain insight into problem solving for the future.
It is impossible to predict where the future will take us. Whether it be peacetime or conflict, the significant experiences of our senior leaders is an invaluable asset which should be embraced and actively sought by subordinates. The alternative is to risk a future where each individual is facing a problem for the first time.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.