By Christine June (USAG Kaiserslautern)March 20, 2009
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - Mentoring - how to and what it actually means - was the focus of the Installation Management Command-Europe Region Director Diane Devens' comments March 17 at the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Women's History Month 2009 Luncheon.
"I think 'mentor' is probably one of the most misused terms in the military, and (Devens) nailed it because it's not just telling someone what they need to do to advance - it's physically walking them through the process," said the Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment 357th Air and Missile Defense Detachment 1st Sgt. Crispin Bryant, who attended the event held at the Kaiserslautern Community Activity Center on Daenner Kaserne.
About 200 military and civilian women and men working as supervisors and employees from different units and agencies throughout the Kaiserslautern military community attended the event.
"It's an honor to be a part of this (event)," said Spec. Nancy Antoine, from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and a member of the All-Female Joint Color Guard that presented the Colors at the event. "It gives you a sense of encouragement as a mother, wife and Soldier. To be a part of something very special as a woman, and having all these military and civilian women come together for this month, I think it's a great thing."
Devens started her federal career as a GS-2 (General Schedule) employee in 1975. She was selected for the Senior Executive Service in 2000. She said of her career, "I guess I'm a poster child for opportunity."
Opportunity, she said, that came about from mentors - role models.
"I think my own career can serve as an example to those of you who mentor subordinates today, and those of you who are subordinates seeking mentorship," said Devens.
Her first role model was her mother.
"My mom is a real hero in every sense of the word...a career Army spouse who hauled me and my seven brothers and sisters around the globe," she said.
Mothers as role models really hit home for Capt. John Johnson, HHD, 357th AMD commander.
"I liked her speech because she actually gave information about how she mentored up, coming up through the ranks, and how people were on her to make something of herself - same way my mom did for me," said Johnson, who proudly added that when he graduated from college he bought two class rings so he could give one to his mother. "I felt we both earned the class ring for graduation."
When talking about her mother, Devens spoke about the "resiliency and strength" of military spouses.
"So when I think of women making an impact in the Army, I immediately think of Army spouses," she said. "I think of just how far women have come, and how much they continue to impact positively on the Army and beyond."
As an example, Devens introduced the audience to Julie Moore, wife of Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the second highest military decoration of the U.S. Army. He was the lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, at the Battle of la Drang on Nov. 14 to 16, 1965, in Vietnam. Today he is the "Honorary Colonel" of the Regiment. He co-authored "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young," which was made into a movie in 2002.
"Julie, an Army daughter, an Army wife and an Army mother, brought about a revolution in how the Army views families when she confronted the pentagon about the callous method of notifying Soldiers' next of kin whose husbands had died in action in the (Battle of) la Drang in Vietnam, which at that time was via telegram at the hands of taxi drivers," said Devens. "Through her crusading efforts on behalf of families she was able to force the pentagon to institute a new policy within two weeks requiring that an officer and a chaplain personally deliver the sad news."
During her career, Devens said she was again fortunate to have role models, starting with her first boss, Carol Beecher.
"I can honestly say that I wouldn't be standing here today if it were not for her mentorship," said Devens. "She lived and breathed mentorship and taught me what it takes to be a successful mentor - perseverance and stubbornness.
Beecher convinced her to stick with going to college to get her degree.
"She said, 'We'll change your hours here and do whatever it takes to get you through school because you have potential, but without a degree, you will go nowhere,'" said Devens. "She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, and for four years, she changed my work schedule to help me get that degree."
And, these words are what stayed with Bryant, who, like Devens, has a master's degree in Public Administration.
"Don't just do the lip service - actually do the work to convince somebody it's better to go to school on the weekend than to go out to the club, party or beach - that's a lot of work," he said.
Phil Sakowitz, the Defense Commissary Agency director, was another role model for Devens.
"Incidentally, don't think for a moment that just because you're a woman it means you need to have a woman mentor or mentee," said Devens. "...It was a male mentor who worked two of my career moves and who eventually hired me into the Senior Executive Service."
Johnson said that Devens explained about mentoring the right way.
"She (Devens) hit it right - the person of knowledge went to her and said, I see you as a person of the future so I want to pass on my knowledge and put you in the same position that I am, because when I retire, I know the person coming up behind me is definitely the person it needs to be to change the future," said Johnson.
Music at the event was provided by the Ramstein High School Jazz Limited Band and The Band - a group of local military and civilian community members who play instruments or sing during their off-duty hours.
Since 1987, Women's History Month is a national observance to highlight contributions of women to the history of the United States.