Managing MPS, mastering mentorship

  • Published
  • By Airman Eric M. Fisher
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

From the first days of Basic Military Training, Airmen are taught to strive for excellence in everything they do and these same individuals carry this with them for the rest of their lives.

Kevin Alexander, the 354th Force Support Squadron chief of the Military Personnel Section, spent 28 years in the Air Force as part of the personnel section and now leads it as a civilian.

During his time in the military, Alexander only completed his Community College of the Air Force degree, but now uses his previous lack of motivation as an example to inspire Airmen to go above and beyond. In the six years following his retirement from active duty, Alexander obtained a master’s degree he believes would have been more beneficial earlier in his life.

“I really do push education and I encourage it because it’s only going to help Airmen in their career,” said Alexander. “Getting an education is so rewarding; I believe it can make a difference when Airmen are choosing whether or not to stay in.”

Not only does Alexander push education, but he actively participates in assisting Airmen work toward their education goals.

“He’ll always give me advice about schooling,” said Senior Airman Sharhea Taylor, a 354th FSS career development journeyman. “He helps me figure out how to manage my time, work and school.”

Using knowledge from his recently obtained degree, Alexander is able to more effectively help Airmen.

“My degree has emphasis on management and leadership and helps me develop Airmen in everything, from training all the way to individual leadership styles,” Alexander explained. “My education allows me to understand where Airmen are coming from today. Some people may say, ‘Today’s Airmen are different than when I was coming up.’ It’s true because the Airmen are a lot smarter now and you have to progress with them.”

Formal education isn’t the only thing Alexander believes Airmen benefit from and he capitalizes on opportunities to ensure they’re getting the experience they need to grow.

“I’ll pull Airmen to the side and explain to them how their contribution leads to the success of the mission; understanding this is a big help because they realize what role they play,” Alexander said. “I explain to the Airmen the reason why I have them do a task and encourage them to gain knowledge about Air Force Instructions.”

In addition to understanding the mission, another form of progression Alexander said he believes is necessary is two-way communication with Airmen to ensure their knowledge and experience isn’t put to waste.

“Airmen have great ideas because they’re the ones on the front line doing the work; they develop new procedures and innovate new methods,” Alexander said. “If you don’t listen to them, then you’re missing out on an enormous pool of technical experience.”

Through the knowledge provided by the Airmen, as well as the mentorship from their leaders, the MPS is able to better assist customers no matter how challenging a request may seem.

“With MPS, it’s important to remember there is always a way to help the customer,” asserted Alexander. “It’s something I teach Airmen; the customer may not get exactly what they want or how they want it, but knowing the AFI and rules allows us to find alternate solutions.”

Through helping customers, mentoring Airmen and watching them grow, Alexander said he finds deep fulfillment within his career.

“The overall goal is to help the customer, but I’d say what I love best is working with my team,” Alexander said. “I like seeing my Airmen and noncommissioned officers learn their job better and gain experience. Many people will get a job, and to them it’s just a paycheck, but my goal is to reveal to Airmen the opportunity to improve themselves through their work.”

This mentorship helped one staff sergeant as she grew into a better leader and later became a master sergeant.

“My time with Mr. Alexander has always been a good experience; when he was active duty he was very knowledgeable and remains that way today,” said Master Sgt. Tyleshea Day, the 354th FSS superintendent of career development. “When I first met him, I was a staff sergeant newly assigned as noncommissioned officer in charge of a section and it was a different experience for me. He guided me through that experience and helped me grow into a better leader.”