Club membership: building mentorship, heritage, camaraderie

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Terry Feehan
  • Electronic Systems Center vice commander
We tell each other that we've lost the art of mentorship. We complain that our Total Force Components don't understand each other. We opine that functional stovepipes isolate our junior officers and noncommissioned officers from the "Big Air Force Picture." We fail to celebrate or understand our own Air Force heritage.

Good news: I found out whose fault it is. It's ours. You want proof; look at one of our greatest opportunities to accomplish all of these things: meeting at the Minuteman Club. I just received the latest statistics, and quite frankly I'm embarrassed for us. Currently only 25 percent of our NCO corps and 32 percent or our officer corps are members. The numbers are about the same for our equivalent-grade civilians.

Our clubs are a privilege and an integral part of professional development. Not only do they provide a convenient location for great food and drinks, but more importantly they offer a unique melting pot of our service.

If you're looking for mentorship, no place provides a better opportunity. This is the one place where junior members can freely talk to wing and center leadership. They can discuss career issues, gain better understanding of center priorities and even question a policy or suggest a new one. Outside the club environment, schedules rarely allow this one-on-one interaction with the bosses. This exchange is critical to both the junior and senior members, as both need to better understand the needs and thoughts of the other.

The club is often the first place we meet members from other service components. Active-duty servicemembers, guardsmen, and reservists come together to mix, talk, play and sometimes compete in friendly games of skill. These interactions help us gain an appreciation of each others' roles and build bonds of friendship and contacts that improve mission effectiveness and assist us to better come together in crisis.

The club is also the place where work gets done. Officers, NCOs and civilians from different AFSCs and organizations across the base exchange ideas, discuss issues and form agreements that can only be done "over a beer" and in a relaxed environment. Oftentimes, we meet people there that were previously only a voice on the phone and a name. These face-to-face contacts form bonds of trust and reinforce our wing, center and Air Force focus, rather than a unit focus, and establish a network for quick response and support for almost any task.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity the clubs provide, however, is a chance to speak to history. Retirees and senior members relay the stories that made our Air Force great. Our heritage from World War II to the Global War on Terror is rich with airpower traditions. The insight we gain from these stories gives us pride and challenges us to take our turn representing and protecting the greatest nation on earth, the United States. We do not honor the retiree by listening to their stories; they honored us with their service and willingness to share the hard-earned lessons of our past.

Many people think of the club only as the place for lunch, after-work drinks, or to cater promotion parties. If we limit them to these aspects, we are missing fantastic opportunities for interaction, mentorship and personal growth. The clubs offer this unique cross section of our base and our service. From medics to mathematicians and airmen basics to general officers, they are all there, ready to share and to perpetuate our proud military traditions.

Col. Dave Orr and the 66th Services Squadron are working to bring our club to life with heritage events, First Fridays, and special deals for organizations. We can make the club whatever we want it to be. Success begins with membership, and then making it our own. Becky and I miss our Friday nights at the club; let's see what we can build together.