By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
When enlisted servicemembers graduate basic training or transfer to a new unit through a permanent change of station (PCS), they are commonly assigned a mentor at their new unit before they arrive. The role of this military mentor is to be a source of information for the new enlisted servicemember.
The mentor is commonly someone who may be at the same level as the new servicemember or could also be of a slightly higher rank. Military mentors help new recruits to gain insight into unit expectations and the local area, as well as what they’ll need to successfully transition to the new unit.
Often, a new member’s first impression of their new unit is based on the mentor’s quality. If that mentor is supportive, available, and willing to answer questions, that helpfulness reduces the stress and anxiety new servicemembers feel after arrival. Helpful military mentors are especially useful for basic training graduates who have reported to their first unit and have very little idea of what to expect in military service.
How to Be an Effective Military Mentor
Ideally, effective military mentors should reach out to new servicemembers, rather than waiting to be contacted by those new recruits. In addition, military mentors should be courteous, knowledgeable about the unit and willing to research questions if they don’t immediately know the answers.
Military mentors should provide clear guidance on the uniform a new servicemember should wear upon reporting to the unit, the gear they will need and what paperwork they should bring with them. This attention to detail will help new servicemembers get off to a good start at the new unit.
For new servicemembers who proactively contact their military mentors, those mentors should anticipate the questions new recruits will ask and prepare their answers. New servicemembers will likely ask questions about lodging, what time to report to the new unit and the local geography.
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New Servicemembers Should Remember That Military Mentors Were Once New Recruits
Sometimes, new servicemembers hesitate to ask questions because they feel they should already know the answers. But even military mentors were new recruits at some point and likely felt the same uncertainty when reporting to a unit for the first time.
If you’re a new servicemember, be sure to follow the guidance you received from your mentor. Following your mentor’s advice eliminates having to ask repetitive questions.
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Good Questions for New Recruits to Ask Their Military Mentors
When you’re in communication with your military mentor, good questions to ask include:
- Referrals to the points of contact for base lodging
- Family services
- Referrals to administrative staff
Asking questions about the culture and particulars of your new unit are also essential. During the transition to your new unit, be sure to to remain in contact with your mentor because new questions are likely to occur to you.
In addition, ask if you can report when your mentor is present on base. At that time, your military mentor can provide a tour of the facilities and introduce you to command officers and your supervisors. Good military mentors will be prepared for the arrival of new servicemembers by having relevant information available to ensure that each recruit will have a successful first day and transition into the new unit more easily.