Friday, March 07, 2014

IceMentor program aims to guide, develop Airmen

by Senior Airman Zachary Perras
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/6/2014 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Throughout life, individuals may seek others of like mind for advice, guidance and friendship. In the Air Force, this is no different; young Airmen sometimes seek help adapting to and learning the ins and outs of military life.

However, help is not always easy to find, especially for someone brand new to the Air Force. At Eielson, this is where the IceMentor program steps in.

IceMentor began as an idea several years ago, but only recently progressed into a full-fledged program. Staff Sgt. Ashley Biondo, 354th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of customer service acquisitions, heard about the old idea and volunteered to revive it.

"The Air Force pushes us to find a mentor, to find that go-to person who can give you advice in a time of need," Biondo said. "The truth is, many of us would love to have a mentor but, just don't know where to go or who to turn to for help."

The aim of IceMentor is to do just that: fill the gap when it comes to finding a mentor and eliminate the possible stressors of not knowing what avenue to take.

"There are many situations our Airmen go through that a mentor could have helped them get through, whether it's deployments, marriage issues or schooling," Biondo said. "We want to shape our future leaders one Airman at a time, so why not talk to someone who has been there before?"

This simple question is what inspired the slogan of IceMentor, said Biondo. "'We've been in your boots, now let us teach you how' really encompasses every aspect of IceMentor. It shows that our Airmen have a place to go and someone to turn to no matter what."

Through the IceMentor program, Biondo said potential mentors have a personal interview with the IceMentor committee members. This helps develop a better understanding of who the mentor is when matching with a mentee. Both mentors and mentees fill out an application form and are matched based on the interests and needs of the Airman.

Senior Airman Gavin Baxter, 354th Civil Engineering Squadron water and fuels systems maintenance technician, has experienced the benefits of the IceMentor program firsthand as one of the first mentees of the program.

Baxter was paired with Staff Sgt. Paul Davis, 354th Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of mortuary affairs. With Davis' help, Baxter said he's been more confident in his future in the Air Force.

"It's like having an older brother to help guide me through different aspects of my career and my life," Baxter said. "It's great knowing that if I'm going through something I've never experienced before, I have someone by my side to turn to and give me a hand."

Biondo said that Airmen are matched with someone who is outside of their work area in order to keep an unbiased mentality, and also help Airmen feel more at ease.

"It's definitely a professional program, but it's also more laid back because we want the Airmen to be comfortable talking about whatever issues they have," she said. "No matter what, they'll be matched with someone who wants to be there for them and lend a helping hand."

For more information or to sign up for the IceMentor program, contact Biondo at 377-4108.

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