Mentees celebrate completion of yearlong program

By Cathy Hopkins DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office

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Twenty-five Defense Logistics Agency Aviation employees gathered in the Community Recreation Center on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, June 18 to celebrate their completion of a yearlong mentoring program that began last May.

Employees and their volunteer mentors, working in multiple DLA Aviation locations, attended the program activities throughout the year either in person in Richmond or virtually from their work locations across the U.S.

Onethia Maxwell, one of the graduates, said she first learned of the program from her coworker and applied at his urgin, and after being touched by the testimonials shared by several of his classmates.  Maxwell is an internal review evaluator in the Internal Review Office of DLA Aviation’s Command Support Directorate.

“After hearing those [testimonials], I really wanted that experience,” she said. “The program has given me the opportunity to interact with people outside of my professional network. Expanding my network of professional contacts is always a benefit.”

The program, now graduating its second class, allows mentees to gain a broader perspective of DLA, its missions and their potential future position within the enterprise.

DLA Aviation’s Customer Operations Directorate manages the program under DLA Aviation Deputy Commander Charlie Lilli’s sponsorship.  Paul Hughes, deputy director, Customer Operations and Kevin Bettis, chief, Mapping Division, along with Henry Dabney, deputy chief, Mapping Division manage the “nuts and bolts” of the program in conjunction with contracted services from The Training Connection, Inc., a professional development firm dedicated to helping organizations grow and develop their people by specializing in mentoring, career and leadership development, and team building.

Mentees are assigned volunteer mentors based on a matching of goals and skills early in the program. They then develop a mentoring action program that includes goals and learning activities related to competency areas the mentee wishes to grow in, or develop.

Jimmy Pauth, who has worked for DLA Aviation since 2017 as an inventory management specialist in Customer Operations Directorate’s Mapping Division,  said the mentoring program has been an eye-opening experience for him and has given him insight on what is truly important.

“The conversations I had with my mentor and the experiences I garnered with each person I met influenced the decisions I made up until to this point or will in the next few months,” Pauth said. “I initially applied for the program to network; however, I felt I have benefited professionally by knowing the inner workings of DLA better than what I thought I did and having more confidence in public speaking.”

Tim Farley, a test and evaluation program manager in DLA Aviation’s Supplier Operations Commodities Directorate, was in the Navy for 22 years before he came to DLA.

He said it was an essential and common practice that junior personnel were mentored by well-qualified trainers.  Farley served as a mentor for the 2018 class.

“Bottom line, for me, I like to share my knowledge and skills,” he said. “I get a lot of satisfaction seeing other people succeed ... I find as a mentor that it strengthens my abilities by reinforcing my mastery knowledge, professionally and personally.  I think your more capable employees seek opportunities to teach junior employees.”

“We need well-qualified and seasoned personnel in all positions,” he said. “Buying aircraft parts is not an easy job and it is even harder when we do not do all we can to strengthen our employees through enhancement programs like mentoring.”

Farley said mentees benefit by learning and growing. “If properly mentored employees ultimately aspire to positions of supervision and management,” he said. He also believes well-mentored people are happy people whose reward is a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment in themselves and realization of how their part ensures successful DLA mission accomplishment and warfighter support.

“While this class graduated June 18, we are already matching up the next group of mentees and mentors,” said Dabney.  “While you may not be an official program participant, every DLA employee has something to offer in terms of their skills and talents. Be aware of learning opportunities you can provide for our current mentees to grow through shadowing and teaming activities, as well as rotational assignments and upcoming special projects.  If you have an opportunity, reach out to me and let me know about it.  I’m sure I have a mentee that would be interested in it.”

Bettis left mentees with this thought: graduation isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning.  “People are the most important part of our mission and the relationships we build allow us to meet our mission,” he said. “The positive relationships you have built and maintain could make a difference in how you are able to support our warfighters.”