Breaking down walls: NCOs, senior NCOs reach out to mentor young Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joshua Magbanua
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Timothy Herrman, U.S. Air Forces Europe unit deployment cell superintendent, was young and alone when he arrived at his first duty station, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, as a security forces Airman.

Although it was the beginning of a long and uncertain journey, he was also excited to begin a new chapter in his life.

“I was scared,” Herrman recalled. “When I arrived at my first duty station almost 16 years ago, it was an eye-opener. My emotions were probably intimidation … but I was also highly motivated to be the best Airman I could be.”

Herrman acknowledged that his career started off rough, but after a while, he started getting the hang of his job. He moved up the ranks and eventually became a senior non-commisioned officer. It was a journey approximately 16 years in the making on a road still being paved.

Herrman is just one of many senior NCOs working to mentor junior Airmen, hoping to pass down his knowledge and experience to those who are eager to develop themselves and their careers.

Staff Sgt. Kenneth Welch, 86th Maintenance Group maintenance qualification instructor, works with Herrman to help young Airmen find direction in their careers.

Noting that rank and age are common barriers which might cause many Airmen to turn down mentorship opportunities from NCOs, Welch hopes to convince Airmen to look past these hindrances for the sake of bettering themselves and their careers.

“I look at all of us as people,” Welch said. “I respect everybody as an adult human being. So when I come to you, I don’t look at your rank first; I look at you as a person—a person that has feelings and emotions, so I can talk to you as such. I tell my Airmen … don’t be afraid to go up to a senior NCO, because they’re humans as well,” Welch added.

One of the avenues both Herrman and Welch use to reach out to Airmen is The Huddle — a club geared toward mentoring Airmen, but which welcomes all people.

“We accept everyone; we even get Airmen who come in with their families,” Herrman said.

Herrman encouraged Airmen to take advantage of the opportunities the Huddle offers, explaining that it is an environment where they can seek help without fear of being judged or ridiculed. The mentors do their best to guide Airmen to positive solutions without leaving a negative impact on their workplace relationships, he added.

“The Huddle is about bringing junior Airmen, NCOs and senior NCOs together to be able to talk about tough issues and keeping a positive drive on everything,” Herrman said. “This isn’t a place where you can sound off about everything that’s negative about your workplace; this is a place where you can ask for advice if there is something going on. We don’t go against supervisors and the way people run their squadrons. We provide unbiased opinions, especially since we’re outside your career field.”

As the older generation of the Air Force prepares to pass the baton to the next, Herrman, Welch, other NCOs and senior NCOs hope that junior Airmen can learn as much from them before they hang up their uniforms.