USS Ashland Revamps Command Mentorship Program
EAST SEA - Standing on the boat deck of amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), Seaman Nathan Ostrander, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, looked around feeling lost. All around his Sailors were preparing the ship to get underway the next day. They all moved with a finesse and grace. They knew where to go and how to do all of the tasks assigned to them without having to ask. As he stood there, Ostrander continued to wonder what he got himself into and how could he ever possibly end up as efficient as the Sailors around him. He did not even know where to begin.
Now a year later, things have definitely turned around for Ostrander. He expressed that he is now one of the Sailors who move seamlessly through evolutions and attributes his success to the Sailors in deck department who helped show him how to do his job, in short a form of mentorship.
“When I first arrived aboard Ashland, I was straight out of boot camp and thought I knew what to expect when coming out to the Fleet,” said Ostrander. “But as I stood there watching the experienced Sailors working, I just felt lost, confused and nervous. If it hadn’t been for the deck department embracing me and my mentor guiding me, I would probably still be standing there on the outside feeling lost.”
As a mentor for Ostrander, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Tyler Johnson helped him learn how to achieve his personal goals while being successful in the Navy. Ostrander stated he is very thankful for the Navy’s mentorship program, because without it he probably still would have been standing on the sidelines feeling lost and confused.
According to Navy instruction 5300.1 titled Navy Personnel Command (NACPERSCOM) Mentoring Program, every command in the Navy is required to have a program where every Sailor must have a mentor who can help the Sailor be successful in the Navy, but there is no specific way for a command to carry out this instruction. Ashland has had this program in place as instructed, but the new command master chief decided it needed to be revamped for it to be more effective.
“When I first joined the Navy, I was not a supporter of the Command Mentorship Program,” said Command Master Chief (CMC) Gary Wise, Ashland’s new CMC who has been aboard for almost two months. “The program consisted of being assigned a mentor and then signing a contract saying so and so was my mentor, but I never had a choice in the matter. A mentor should be someone a Sailor feels comfortable going to with any question or problem and if one does not get along with the mentor assigned then the partnership will not work.”
Using his 19 years of experience in the Navy, Wise implemented a few changes to the Ashland’s program.
“Each Sailor is now given time to select their own mentor and establish a bond with them,” said Wise. “However, before the contract is signed, I have them meet with me in my office and I talk to them about what I expect from their partnership and have them discuss their plans for the partnership. After the discussion, if all parties present believe the partnership will be effective, then the contract is signed and turned in to the mentorship coordinator aboard Ashland.”
Chief Hospital Corpsman Abisola Olatunjiojo, Ashland’s command mentorship program coordinator for the last 11 months, is supportive of the new direction the program is heading and feels all of the positive changes will help Sailors become more involved in the program.
“In addition to having a mentor look out for the Sailor, every department and every division is required to keep track of all of their Sailors,” said Olantunjiojo. “This ensures that no Sailor slips through the cracks and feels forgotten.”
Navy Counselor 1st Class Kevin Anthony Sutton, Ashland’s command career counselor, also has a positive outlook about the revamping of the mentorship program.
“I think the program is going to help build a stronger command cohesiveness between all the different ranks,” said Sutton. “I definitely appreciate the direction the CMC is taking the program and how he is using his tools to show the command that professional and personal growth can be done at any pay grade in the military.”
Sutton also stated that he feels more commands throughout the Navy should model their mentorship programs after this one and although it is still in the beginning stages, Ashland is already seeing positive results from the program.
Ashland is a part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG) and is participating in exercise Ssang Yong 16, a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward-deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations - from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations.
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