GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Mentors from Great Lakes area commands held their monthly “Real Talk Sessions” with over 50 Training Support Center (TSC) Great Lakes’ female students at the galley’s Windy City Café August 21.
This month’s session included topics of dating/relationships, questions specific to students’ rates and junior Sailor leadership opportunities.
“Mentoring and character development is an important part of what the TSC staff accomplishes 16 hours a day during the week day, and throughout the entire weekend when the student are not in their apprentice level training,” said TSC Commanding Officer Capt. David Dwyer. “Outside the normal role of our NMTI’s, we wanted to find additional ways to make a difference, with the end desire to help reduce poor decision related issues.”
After talking with female students, Dwyer found that some lacked prominent female figures and mentors in their lives prior to joining the Navy. Therefore, he directed for the development of a mentorship program that has female mentors from every command in the Great Lakes region from E-5’s to O-4’s.
“The sessions cover a little of everything that is Sailor centric, and keys on topics that will help them be more successful in the Navy and life,” Dwyer said. “The program is in the third month and we have received positive feedback from the sessions so far from both the mentors and students.”
Lt. Cmdr. Mindie Witt, operations officer for TSC Great lakes, has taken the lead as coordinator for the mentorship program.
“The goal for the program is to facilitate an opportunity for fleet experienced and new accession Sailors to come together and openly discuss relevant topics to them and the Navy,” Witt said. “It is important to promote mentorship bonds and peer friendships that will continue well after Sailors leave Great Lakes.”
Witt realized the importance of mentorship early on in her career from her first Chief.
“While I learned my foundation of leadership from him, I lacked a female’s perspective and guidance on my own experiences in the surface warfare community,” she said. “I was fortunate to have a few female peers on the ship, but it was rare to have an approachable and available senior female mentor. After studying leadership and diversity for a graduate degree, I realized how vital mentorship was for personal development, growth and confidence. In the case of females in the military, by valuing and promoting mentorship opportunities related to our experiences and careers, it has the potential to improve retention and advancement.”
The mentorship program could not have been possible without the mentors across the Great Lakes area that have dedicated their time and experiences to development of others. According to Witt, they are committed to training their reliefs and are the true leaders of our Navy.
One of the mentors is Navy Military Training Instructor Interior Communications Technician 1st Class Deborah Wygant. When she joined the Navy in 2005, she said there was a real lack of mentorship. Wygant noticed a change leading up to her last tour where she saw a much bigger push when it came to sponsorship and mentorship.
“It makes a big difference from having to learn as you went along to making it a priority to give knowledge to our Sailors early on in their careers,” she said. “I think this program is very special. I volunteered to be a part of it because I wanted to give back to Sailors by sitting with them and discussing what is on their minds one-on-one. Many times, we are wrapped-up in student/staff instructing which prevents us from creating that mentorship bond. So, being able to talk about real expectations out there is unique and there is a lot of value added to that. I like being able to sit down talk about things they will have to deal with when they are in the fleet.”
Students attending the “Real Talk” sessions agree that these events will help them in the future.
“I think it is important to talk with female mentors because in the military it is more male dominated,” said Machinist’s Mate Fireman Andrea Peeler. “Having the chance to get that female insight is helpful for navigating my way through the Navy and my specific job.”
Engineman Fireman Savanaa Pratt believes the program will help her be better prepared in her career in the Navy.
“I think it is important to meet with mentors because they are able to give you a perspective of what it will be like out in the Fleet,” she said. “I would recommend this for anyone that is confused and unsure of what the future may hold.”
Comments gathered from participants over the duration of the program have praised the mentorship opportunity and believe that attending the monthly event will help them succeed in the Navy.
“In the end, we are trying to help our young Sailors make better choices, and help force shape culture and behavior,” Dwyer said. “More importantly, we want to make a difference in these young Sailors’ lives, hopefully allowing them to be more productive and enjoy their time while in the Navy.”
Both Dwyer and Witt’s future goal is to develop a program that mirrors the female mentorship program for the males with opportunities for them to come together and promote the importance and value of mentorship opportunities in the Navy.
“On September 4 we will be holding our first male mentorship program event,” Witt said. “We are currently working on creating an official TSC instruction for this mentorship program to share our best practices with the Fleet.”
For more news from Training Support Center, Great Lakes, visit www.navy.mil/local/tscgl/.