How and Where to Find an Army Mentor

Today, I want to discuss how and where to find an Army mentor.  If you are like most officers and NCOs in the ARNG and USAR, you probably don’t have a mentor in your chain of command.  If you do have a good mentor, consider yourself lucky.  Regardless, you need an Army mentor, especially if you are serious about your career and want to move up through the ranks. Therefore, I want to share some tips on how and where to find an Army mentor.

Where to Find an Army Mentor

1.  Veteran’s Organizations – These are probably the most beneficial, yet most untapped resources for finding a mentor.  Visit any VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, or any other veteran’s organization and you will find plenty of potential mentors.  Each organization has many folks who dedicated most of their working life to the military.  Add in the life experiences, wisdom and maturity of these folks and you have the ideal situation.  I suggest you join one of these organizations and start building friendships with people until you find someone who can mentor you.

2. Sister Units – I’m a big fan of finding a mentor outside of your chain of command, so you can talk with them in confidence and not worry about things getting back to your boss.  Look for someone you respect and admire in a sister unit and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you on a monthly or quarterly basis.

3. Retirees – Within every community, there are many USAR and ARNG retirees.  Many of these retirees are still involved with the unit in one way or another.  You might see them at your holiday party during December drill.  Take some time and get to know these retirees. There’s a good chance there is a senior officer or senior NCO who would gladly share their wisdom with you and help you solve some problems and develop your skills.

4. Books – Books are hands down the easiest way to get mentored.  Why most military members don’t read 3-4 good books a month is beyond me.  Just about every famous military leader has a biography or auto-biography.  You can study someone’s entire life just by reading a book.  And if you hate to read, there is normally an audio version available.  Do yourself a favor and order a few books off Amazon each month and read them.  Study successful Soldiers, Generals, battles, units, etc.  I’ve learned more from books than anything else and I know it can have the same impact on you.

5. Social Media Websites – YouTube and Facebook are a great way to find a potential mentor.  Just about any problem you have can be answered in a YouTube video.  Many veterans gladly share their experience and wisdom with you free of charge.  I suggest you join some of the military oriented groups of Facebook and be an active participant.  You will meet new people and potentially find someone who can mentor you.  You can also check out our YouTube channel as we add new videos to it every week.

How to Find an Army Mentor

Now that we’ve covered where to find an Army mentor, my next goal is to teach you how to do it.  First and foremost, you need to humble yourself.  Don’t act like a know it all.  When you get around others, introduce yourself and show a genuine interest in the other person.  Get to know them as a person first, and focus on building a friendship.  You will need to get to know the person first in order to find out if they are the type of mentor you are looking for.  You will probably need to network with 10-20 people BEFORE you find the right person to mentor you.

Once you find someone you want as your mentor, ask them if they would be willing to be your mentor.  Tell them what you are looking for.  For example, ask them if they would be interested in getting together for a breakfast or lunch every 90 days to bounce ideas off each other.  Most people will be open to this idea.  And if they aren’t open to the idea, keep looking until you find someone who is.

Final Thoughts

All successful military leaders I know of have a mentor.  Remember that it’s your job to find a mentor to mentor you.  At a minimum, I suggest you follow my advice about reading.  That in and of itself will go a long ways.  In addition, I suggest you find someone who can share their wisdom with you and help you overcome your challenges.  Follow the advice listed in this article and you will be well on your way.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “How and Where to Find an Army Mentor”

  1. Every retired serviceman/woman I have come across has been extremely easy to talk to and proud of their service. They relish in talking about their time in the military and will be eager to share with someone who is interested to hear it. Get to know various vets and find someone you admire. Someone who has been where you want to go. Even though times have surely changed, the basics remain the same. The VFW is a great place to find a mentor. There are so many social activities that leave the field open to talk to your future mentor in a social setting and get to know them better.

  2. I love the fact about visiting your local VFW, American Legion or AMVETS. Most retired military vets would absolutely love to mentor. The key is humbleness. Remember, you are learning, not teaching. Close your mouth and open your ears and you will learn. Yes questions can be good, but do more listening than talking.

    I am also a big believer in reading too. There are many great books on military lives, some are even free.

    Great post!

    1. I’ve got lots of mentoring through books and the rest from living people. I prefer finding mentors who are retired and have been there and done that. Find someone with the rank you want to get and pick their brain. If that’s not possible, look for someone outside of your unit, so you can address problems, without fear of recourse. But whatever you do, find a mentor!

    2. Candace Ginestar

      I agree, Greg. Listening, and remembering that we want mentors to learn from…not to teach, is so important. I think that humility comes into play, none of us are perfect, none of us have all the answers. We can all learn from each other, if we just let ourselves open up.

  3. It’s a good strategy for both…not only is the leader getting a mentor and source of knowledge and information, but when you know you are a mentor you oftentimes refine your own behavior to ensure you are always a shining example.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        Chuck, this is a great point. I find that I learn way more when someone is asking me for instruction. It reminds me of when you ask someone to teach a class, usually they learn more when they are preparing to teach, than they even thought possible! I think that having our SPC mentor privates is a great way for them to learn a lot, too.

  4. I think that your point about how to approach someone to be your mentor is critical. A lot of times people say that they have a mentor, but really it is just someone that they look up to and that person has not a clue. A TRUE mentor relationship can only occur when that person knows that is your intent and works WITH you in true mentor fashion.

    1. Very true. You can learn a lot my modeling someone else, but for them to be your mentor, you need to sit down with them and schedule time for you to talk and interact.

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