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Mentors program gives officers someone to look up to

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 18, 2004) -- Every officer or officer candidate needs someone to look up to, someone he or she can talk with about career development and being a professional and becoming a leader.

For more than 20 years, Air Force Cadet/Officer Mentor Action Program volunteers have provided officers with that someone. The program matches up officers with mentors -- officers who have Air Force experience to share. The program serves officers of all grades, said Brig. Gen. Henry Taylor, national president of the program.

"The focus is on our junior officers, and certainly they make up a large percent of our membership," General Taylor said. "We have involvement from colonels on down. Our basic context is that every officer is a mentor, and that we want to see every officer mentored."

The program is an officially recognized Air Force activity with 21 chapters across the service. Officers at each chapter conduct visits to local Air Force ROTC detachments to offer guidance to cadets. General Taylor said the chapters also hold fellowship luncheons, feature professional speakers and facilitate the pairing of mentors with protégés.

Protégés are paired with officers in similar career fields, where they can learn from the mentor's military experience and hone their professional skills. But it is not just the protégés that benefit from the program, said Col. James Johnson, president of the Pentagon chapter.

"The mentor experiences true selflessness," Colonel Johnson said. "Giving of one’s self, to teach, to train and to encourage fellow officers or cadets will replicate itself in other parts of an officer's life. It provides intangible benefits, including the personal satisfaction of contributing to the development of future leaders of the Air Force."

The program began as part of an Army mentorship program called ROCKS, named after its founder, Army Gen. Roscoe "Rock" Cartwright. In 1983, the Air Force joined the program, ensuring the message of mentorship was provided to Air Force ROTC detachments. Two years later, the Air Force split from the Army program so it could focus entirely on Air Force ROTC cadets. In 1989, the Air Force ROCKS program was officially recognized by the Air Force and renamed AFCOMAP.

Program officials will hold an awards banquet March 20 at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., to recognize program achievers from 2003. Honorees include:

• President's Award: Majs. George Govan and Gloria Porter both of the Pentagon Chapter.

• Lt. Col. Thomas L. Bain Leadership Award: Maj. Traci R. Madison from Robins AFB, Ga.

• The General Daniel "Chappie" James Award: Capt. Demetrius M. Wilson from Travis AFB, Calif.

• The Distinguished Service Award: Capt. Felisa Wilson from Robins.

• Brig. Gen. William E. Stevens Award: The Golden Gate Chapter at Travis.

• Individual Membership Recruiting Award: Maj. Vivian P. Dennis from Robins.

• Air Force ROTC Outstanding Cadet Award: Cadet Jeffry Harnly from Travis.

• High School Cadet Leadership Award: Cadet Col. Mary Renae Conley from Travis.