ARLINGTON, Va. - The U.S. Army Installation Management Command solicited applications this month for its annual mentorship program, with the intent to groom 30 promising mid-level employees for leadership.

For the past several years, IMCOM has matched senior leaders (GS 14-15 or equivalent) with outstanding mid-level employees (GS 11-13 or equivalent) for a year-long program of professional development and networking.

"It provides for continued excellence in installation management leadership by developing agile, adaptive leaders with the understanding and career focus that will enable them to act decisively in the best interest of the organization," says J. Randall Robinson, director of IMCOM-West, who has served as the program's "mentoring champion" since its inception.

The highly structured program begins with a formal orientation in San Antonio in November to establish career goals, with "stretch assignments" developed in subsequent meetings. For one week of the year, the mentee shadows the mentor in the workplace, observing senior-level workings of business and government. The program also includes exercises designed to focus participants on possible career paths.

Beginning with 15 pairs annually in the first two years, the program served as a model for other Department of Defense agencies, with IMCOM selected by the Army Management Staff College last year as winner of the annual "Excellence in Education Award."

A number of past mentees jumped at the chance to praise the program, including Sandy Jackson, a Region Installation Support Teams specialist, formerly working overseas in human resources, who was struck by Robinson's enthusiasm.

"At the time, I was working at a garrison in Korea and heard Mr. Robinson speak and decided I wanted to work for him-because of his passion."

In 2008, Jackson paired with David Lucia, the director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation in Korea, an experience she says helped her to develop her career. "The best part of the program was the shadow assignment because I was able to spend a full week at IMCOM headquarters, meeting with leaders and observing the decision-making process."

Charlene Smith, Army Substance Abuse program manager, also found the shadowing experience to be useful. "I got to see the day to day experience at the director-level and was able to discuss the decision-making process at that level-why decisions were made-which was different from being a program manager."

Smith says she looks forward to completing the program in October, after a year of "well-structured" tutelage, with ideas for moving forward with her career.

IMCOM officials encourage other prospective participants to submit applications by July 28.