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Col. Rich Weathers, head of USAFE's Project Connect program.
Col. Rich Weathers, head of USAFE's Project Connect program. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — A new U.S. Air Forces in Europe program encourages field-grade and senior officers to mentor company-grade officers.

Project Connect, which officially starts in May, is meant to encourage leaders to offer junior officers help with their careers as well as their personal goals, said Col. Rich Weathers, who runs the USAFE program.

“I view it as adopting a person,” said Weathers, who has been in the Air Force for 28 years. “I wish I had had someone like that when I was coming up.”

Project Connect is one of the 14 combat and special interest programs started by USAFE Commander Gen. Robert H. Foglesong.

Air Force regulation already dictates that leaders mentor their troops, but this program gives troops the chance to choose their own mentors, Weathers said. It also allows troops to pick a mentor outside their own career field.

Company-grade officers can take their pick of prospective mentors from an internal USAFE database that has a biography of every senior leader, Weathers said. A similar program is being considered for enlisted airmen and Air Force civilians, he said.

Some leaders already are fully engaged in the mentoring program.

Maj. Ben Davis, commander of the 31st Maintenance Operations Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, said he is mentoring three junior officers. Davis picked his charges, however.

“I’ve been in the Air Force for 15 years now and one of the things that I remember most about my career is the excellent mentorship that I have had and how motivational it was for me,” Davis said.

Davis said he helps the two lieutenants and captain he mentors to focus on their professional and technical training, physical fitness goals and long-term life intentions.

“It could be as simple as asking one of them if they’ve thought about getting their retirement investments started,” he said.

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