Mentoring program challenges sailors to fulfill potential, strive for excellence

Mentoring program challenges sailors to fulfill potential, strive for excellence

Jessica Bailey

Chief Storekeeper Tangela Thompson is not one to toot her own horn or seek any special attention. She simply does her job every day, and focuses on helping those around her. But when she has a chance to talk about something near and dear to her heart–mentoring and encouraging Sailors–the soft-spoken chief’s eyes brighten as she talks about why her fellow shipmates are so important to her.

“Every Sailor matters to me, and I don’t want any Sailor to feel as if no one cares,” Thompson said. “Sometimes it doesn’t look as if you’re going to make it or receive any recognition or credit when it’s deserved. But, it’s our responsibility as leaders to assure our Sailors that hard work eventually does pay off and that their contribution is always important whether they’re a first class petty officer or a seaman.”

The Miami, Fla., native, who is the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center’s leading chief petty officer serving the Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity’s Submarine Maintenance Detachment, is committed enough to the Navy’s goal to produce the best Sailors that she coordinates the newly formed Mentorship Program at FISC San Diego’s SIMA site.

The local program got its legs last year when Thompson was approached and asked by her seniors and peers to coordinate it. Since then, she has watched the program flourish and takes very seriously her roll in challenging other senior enlisted Sailors to mentor those junior to them.

As Navy ratings merge and become more competitive, Sailors are required to not only possess a skill set conducive to their particular rating, but they must also demonstrate the desire and capability to step into leadership rolls. Thompson has found that for Sailors to even want to compete, they might need a little prodding and steering from someone senior who’s been there before. That’s where strong mentoring comes in.

“We started the program about a year ago, so it’s fairly new,” Thompson said. “FISC’s SIMA site storekeepers are generally who we are targeting. What normally happens is when a person checks in, and they’re E-5 or below, we assign them a mentor who is E-6 or above. Currently, we have about 30 junior Sailors who have been assigned mentors. I’m proud of that.”

The goal is to assign every junior Sailor a mentor. Twice a month mentors meet with their assigned Sailor to discuss personal and professional issues, and Thompson receives monthly feedback from these sessions. She also meets periodically with mentors to discuss the progress of those being mentored. Both sessions allow concerns to be addressed and provide necessary feedback to determine whether the program is being effective.

Thompson finds it easy to relate to those Sailors who can sometimes feel a bit lost or disenfranchised in their quest for acceptance and added responsibility as they work their way up the promotion ladder. She’s compassionate and understands all too well what it’s like.

“I can remember being a junior Sailor and working hard doing all the tough physical jobs no one else wanted to do,” she said. “I did not have the best evaluations, nor was I given the most glamorous positions, but I remained positive and hung in there and did not rock the boat.”

Eventually, Thompson was recognized for her hard work. But, now as a senior enlisted person she observes how many junior Sailors feel dejected when they’re not chosen to fill key positions that will offer them added exposure.

“Unfortunately, sometimes we as senior enlisted perpetuate this dejection by giving better evaluations and more recognition to those with the glamorous, in-the-limelight positions,” she said. “We tend to forget about the ones that work in the warehouse or behind the scenes who, in most cases, work just as hard if not harder. Sometimes we forget that they need guidance and recognition, too.”

Thompson said the program is designed to address the needs of the total person, not just the Sailor. Mentors will explore topics from education to financial planning, but they’re not expected to have all the answers. However, they are expected to at least assist in finding answers, even if it means enlisting the help of a subject-matter expert.

In addition, since there are junior personnel that are not storekeepers, the program is designed to ensure that all E-5 and below Navy personnel regardless of rate and attached to FISC San Diego are assigned a mentor.

For more information on the FISC San Diego Mentorship Program, contact SKC Thompson at (619) 556-9942.

Journalist 1st Class Jessica Bailey Fleet and Industrial Supply Center San Diego Public Affairs

COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Department of the Navy, Supply Systems Command

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group