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Mentoring Airmen outside the box

Airmen have a dorm dinner.

U.S. Air Force Airmen participate in a dorm dinner at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, May 26, 2021. Senior enlisted leaders, the Chaplain Corps at Tyndall and the dorm management office hosted a dinner for dorm residents to offer unstructured mentorship in a casual setting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves)

Airmen play cornhole

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Antawn Knight, 325th Comptroller Squadron financial analysis flight chief, plays a game of cornhole at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, May 26, 2021. Knight attended a dorm dinner where the goal of the event was to allow junior enlisted Airmen a chance to network with senior enlisted leaders outside of normal duty hours. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Magen M. Reeves)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Tyndall Air Force Base senior enlisted leaders, the Chaplain Corps at Tyndall and the dorm management office hosted a dorm dinner for Airmen here, May 26.

The goal of the event was to allow junior enlisted Airmen a chance to network with senior enlisted leaders outside of normal duty hours. The monthly dorm dinner event recently returned after being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been a very long year of teleworking and separation,” said Chief Master Sgt. Rick Grider, 325th Operations Group superintendent. “The senior enlisted leaders on base wanted to find a way to support and give back to our Airmen in the dorms.”

To spur spirits before Memorial Weekend, Tyndall’s top enlisted leaders worked with the religious affairs and dorm management teams to throw Airmen a barbecue complete with music and games.

“Bringing our Airmen an event is important to help them feel like they belong,” said Senior Master Sgt. Shaun Barnette, 53rd Test Support Squadron superintendent. “They are a part of our team and it’s our job to support our team.”

Enlisted leaders took on a “servant leader” role by literally cooking for and serving dinner to junior enlisted Airmen.

“It is a way for us to build relationships, provide mentorship and spend some quality time with our junior Airmen,” said Grider. “We are doing something for them at their home and outside of duty hours.”

Ideally, dorm dinners are hosted to help break down communication barriers and offer an environment where Airmen can feel at ease enough to ask questions they may not be likely to in a work center.

“It was great having senior leadership out at the dorms because I got to see a different side of them and talk about stuff I didn’t think we could relate on,” said Airman 1st Class June Taufetee, 325th Fighter Wing religious affairs apprentice. “I believe mentorship in a more relaxed environment is so important because it allows junior enlisted to build a sense of trust with their [senior noncommissioned officers].”

These events can provide a change of pace and help break down some of the rank barriers that are part of day-to-day, work center life.

“Getting different perspectives from the different senior enlisted leaders on base and be able to have conversations and get mentorship from leaders that are not in their squadron or career field [is part of what makes this] so important,” said Grider. “It also provides an opportunity to just hang out with our Airmen and have some fun.”

Mentorship is vital for Airmen on every level and this dorm dinner allowed senior enlisted leaders to learn from junior Airmen while providing mentorship and dissolving rank barriers.