Mentoring eases life, career changes

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

The Air Force Materiel Command hosted a Women’s History Month cross-cultural virtual mentoring event, March 19.

The event is part of an ongoing AFMC effort highlighting how mentoring mutually benefits future leaders and mentors.

Panel members from across the Department of the Air Force included Lt. Gen. Linda Hurry, Deputy Commander, AFMC; Dr. Kimberly Jacoby Morris, Office of Scientific Research, Air Force Research Laboratory; Maj. Olivia Honeycutt, Deputy Branch Chief, Big Safari; Tech. Sgt. Tierra Mills, NCOIC, Administration and Operations, AFMC Judge Advocate Office; and Arthur Grijalva, SpaceWerx Director. Michele Miller, Public Affairs Specialist, AFRL, facilitated the panel.

Miller opened the discussion by asking panelists for a short synopsis of their careers. Although the panel was diverse, most panelists had one thing in common – they all had changed jobs and had mentors who helped them to render that change successfully.

For example, Dr. Jacoby Morris earned a Ph.D. in chemistry and was an ultrafast laser spectrophysicist, but now works at the AFRL in workforce development.

“Thanks to mentoring, I did a total career shift,” said Morris. “Now I get to open doors to science and engineering to those interested in expanding their knowledge, and that’s exciting.”

Mills, who transitioned from security forces to paralegal work, had difficulty finding people who looked like her in security forces. She was one of only a few females and African Americans in the career field but found that finding mentors who were not her mirror image expanded her options.

“I had no idea what I needed in a mentor but found that branching out kept me from being pigeonholed into a certain path,” she said.

She expressed how mentorship comes in many forms – race, gender, age, technical background, and experience – but it should also include personal as well as professional life experiences.

Honeycutt echoed that sentiment. She also had various Air Force roles as an engineer, instructor, and program manager. As the mother of three children under six years of age, she is passionate about mentorship and what it means to the success of her and her spouse.

“It’s been critical for my dual military household to find people who have faced the same challenges as us,” she said. “It’s really helped us get to where we are today.”

When asked what changes she has seen in mentorship, Hurry talked about how she has watched the transformation of opportunities for women in the military, as an early female Air Force Academy cadet accused by a classmate of being there only to get her ‘Mrs.’ degree, to women serving as fighter pilots and in special operations.

“Everyone who wants to serve can and should,” she said. “If you have a vision and inspiration that you should do certain things, no one should ever be able to tell you ‘no’.”

She advocates finding mentors who have commonalities but who also have a completely different perspective. It’s essential to find someone who can hear your priorities and help you achieve those goals without supplanting your priorities.

“I love getting to know our Airmen, and by that, I mean all Airmen--military and civilian–it doesn’t matter what color outfit you wear to work,” she said. “It’s so important to let people know they are not walking through this life alone.”

View the full event at:

The next virtual mentoring panel will be May 21, 2024, held in conjunction with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.