DVIDS – News – State Command Chief embodies importance of mentorship
Careers have a tendency to twist and turn and one decision early in a career can lead to unimaginable opportunities. This was definitely the case for one Washington Air National Guardsman.
Washington Air National Guard State Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Allan Lawson, grew up as a military dependent – his father served in the U.S. Army – and after graduation he signed up for the delayed entry program for the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I was a bit of a hot mess coming out of high school and at 21 I knew I had to make a turn. I had to make a change in my life,” he said. His dad convinced him to join the U.S. Air Force instead.
Lawson enlisted in the Air Force and served on active duty for four years as a Ground Tactical Command and Control Operator. At that point he wasn’t satisfied with his career, mainly due to a lack of good leadership within the squadron, so he was looking to separate, he said.
“But then a strong mentor of mine who was on active duty with me said, ‘Have you ever thought about the guard?’”
Lawson said he hadn’t thought about the guard because he’d had very little interaction with National Guardsmen. His mentor recommended the Western Air Defense Sector, where he had previously been stationed, and talked then Senior Airman Lawson into submitting an application.
Shortly after, he was selected for the WADS position, separated from active duty through the Palace Front program, and made the trek to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
At the WADS, he served in a variety of roles as a 1C5 Command and Control Battle Management Operator, which he said was an “amazing experience.”
After 20 years at the WADS he was preparing to retire and looking to get into a state government job when he received a call from Chief Master Sgt. Jennie Bellerose, who was then the 194th Wing Command Chief and was also retiring. She asked Lawson to consider applying for the 194th Command Chief position.
“I said, ‘Well I’ll have to talk to my family’ because I was actually on track to retire in 2019, I’d been through TAPS, I was doing my [Bachelors of Arts] stuff, I was super excited.”
He spoke to his wife, Courtney, and she simply said, “Go for it.” He applied and was fortunately selected for the job.
Lawson was the 194th Wing Command Chief for a little over three years and then was picked up for the Washington Air National Guard State Command Chief position in September 2022. As State Command Chief, his top goal is mentoring.
One of Lawson’s greatest mentors was now retired Chief Master Sgt. Trish Almond, former State Command Chief and Senior Enlisted Leader. “Her and I grew up together at the WADS and she was always at least one rank above me. She always poked and pushed me to be better, to get my education, get my degree. Sometimes she was frustrating, but in a good way.”
Air Force leaders espouse the importance of mentorship and have attempted to institute formal mentorship programs, but Lawson wanted to start a program that could facilitate more organic and informal mentor relationships, like his relationship with Almond.
“When I was at the 194th Wing, the Chief’s Council and I came up with what we called the Mentoring Session Program,” he said. It was not a robust program, he added, which was by design.
“If you were a newly selected or promoted Senior NCO or CGO you would sit down with a couple of seasoned personnel of that rank you’re going to, along with a chief, and talk through the ropes, ‘this is what I wish I would have known when I got promoted.’”
Nudging Airmen to have a simple conversation could lead to a long-term mentor relationship. Another feature of the program was to link Airmen with others outside their unit in order to give them a different perspective. This in turn created a networking opportunity for program participants.
“I believe that when you create processes and programs – if you want them to thrive and really survive – they need to be as simple as you can make them,” Lawson said. The program started at the 194th in late 2021 and it took off.
When Lawson started his current role as State Command Chief, he wanted the program to continue at the state-level.
“I wanted to make it where units had the flexibility to tailor it… every unit is manned differently, ops tempo is a little different. But I want every enlisted member and CGO to have a mentor or two.”
Another goal of Lawson’s is building first line supervisors. “This goes along hand-in-hand with mentoring,” he said.
For instance, if an Airman has a pay issue, they need to feel comfortable enough with the supervisor to let them know. “I see that a lot, subordinates aren’t communicating with their supervisor or vice versa,” he said. If there was that two-way comms and energy, and effort put into it then we’d have a whole lot less issues.”
Having conversations, building relationships and a culture of trust should help Airmen, civilians and leaders at every level to feel empowered to do their jobs, Lawson said.
|Date Posted:||02.12.2023 10:27|
|Location:||CAMP MURRAY, WA, US|
This work, State Command Chief embodies importance of mentorship, by Lt. Col. Alyson Teeter, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.
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