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Under the Wings JROTC cadet mentorship program launches

  • Published
  • By Christian P. Hodge
  • Air Force Junior ROTC Public Affairs

The Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development formally launched a new mentorship program May 15, that will link Airmen, Guardians, Guardsmen, and Reservists with Air Force/Space Force Junior ROTC cadets in high schools at their units across the nation and some places abroad. 

The Under the Wings Mentorship Program can trace its beginnings to September 2020 during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic as a one-of-a-kind mentorship endeavor that develops Airmen/Guardians and JROTC cadet citizens of character through community service and work-based learning, according to the program’s handbook.

"Our nation's youth are eager to learn about the values of citizenship that make America strong. What better mentors could we ask for than Airmen and Guardians who are willing to share their experiences in the service of our nation,” said Col. Johnny McGonigal, Air Force Junior ROTC director. "Under the Wings gives Airmen and Guardians an opportunity to inspire our next generation of citizens and leaders... they will have a meaningful impact on the future of our country." 

Under the Wings also creates a virtual or in-person mentoring tool for Air Force JROTC and Space Force JROTC instructors to utilize year-round, which affords them a volunteer service member that cadets can relate to, but more importantly, look up to. 

"Under the Wings provides an exceptional opportunity for AF/SF JROTC cadets to interact with Airmen and Guardians who are performing missions they learn about in the classroom,” McGonigal said.  

Volunteer mentors in many cases will be providing presentations about their jobs and slice of the military to cadets in coordination with the units’ officer and senior enlisted aerospace science instructors, who are retired service members. The UTW staff will also review and approve the presentations, which can be in-person or virtual. 

“We all have someone that we look up to, regardless of the position and rank. My role model has allowed me to increase my desire for success and stay accountable to the things that make me be a better person/member of the profession of arms,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gilda M. Alexander, the Holm Center command chief.

“It would be difficult to achieve those things without the guidance and support of a mentor,” said Alexander, who has been a driving force behind UTW. 

Alexander thinks all should seek mentorship, and UTW provides this opportunity to the future of our nation. She feels the program provides an endless opportunity to be part of the development and mentorship of the future leaders of this country. 

“Our goal has been set – ‘accelerate, change or lose.’ Under the Wings is changing how we do mentorship, creating a new platform for development and connectivity. I think Under the Wings is only in the beginning stages and will soon evolve into a diverse and far-reaching mentorship program,” Alexander said. 

The creator of UTW could not agree more. 

“The role models I have had have helped me set goals for myself, and in a way, have provided me with competition. I have always strived to be better than my best mentors,” said Staff Sgt. Nicolas J. Koerber, senior emergency actions controller, 325th Fighter Wing Command Post, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and the architect of the program. “For me, the success of Under the Wings will be determined by one goal having been met: If a cadet has listened to a mentor’s story and thinks to themself, ‘I can do it better,’ then all the work that has been put into this program is worth it.”

Koerber credits his experience as a JROTC cadet as the reason he had the idea for Under the Wings in September 2020. 

“As a JROTC alumni, I understand the need. Not only does the program allow for invaluable mentorship to take place, it inches us towards a total force and gives today’s cadets a brand new, one-of-a-kind opportunity. Mentoring will help Airmen and Guardians discover their strengths and establish goals to achieve their full potential through a structured, trusting mentoring relationship and program,” Koerber said. 

Airmen, Guardians, Guardsmen and Reservists interested in participating in Under the Wings should talk to their leaders and go to the program webpage to get started. For specific questions email