What goes around comes around

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- A phrase we often hear in life is "what goes around comes around." I had never thought of that phrase from a mentoring standpoint until Aug. 24.

I was instructing two classes of Air and Space Basic Course students on Air Force Instruction 36-2618, the Enlisted Force Structure, prior to their first day of the combined operations activities with the Senior NCO Academy students.

The curriculum delivery seemed normal. There were over 350 young lieutenants in the class, and it was one of those teaching moments when you know that what you are saying will help those who are listening and want to hear your message. It was a very positive class.

I always end my lesson with an open-floor, question-and-answer period, hoping to remove that last piece of doubt or confusion from a young lieutenant's mind before they head off to their interaction with our senior NCOs. The first question was EPR-focused which was easily answered. The second question offered a challenge I had not experienced before.

The question began with a young male lieutenant identifying himself as 2nd. Lt. Brian Scholten and asking, "Chief, why did you give me detention in sixth grade?" I immediately felt a sense of confusion as the auditorium got a huge chuckle going as they saw the look of bewilderment on my face.

I told the audience how Lieutenant Scholten and I knew each other and quickly reminded the audience that you never know when something from your past will come back at you. I wished them great success in their future careers and completed the lesson.

Lieutenant Scholten was in my third/fourth grade combined elementary school class in 1995 in Dell Rapids, S.D. He was also in my sixth grade classroom, and we were together again when I was the cross-country coach and high school principal when he was a sophomore. I returned to active duty in 2003, and he graduated in 2005. I had given him some advice about AFROTC while he was in high school and had lost touch with him since.

As we shared a short nostalgic moment, I was amazed at how good it felt to see him now as a successful young Air Force officer and to hear how he had learned from me so many years ago. Brian always knew that I was in the Air National Guard but had never seen that side of my professional life. Now I am able to offer him a basic lesson that hopefully he will carry forward into his career and shape his interactions with the enlisted corps. It was a validating moment in my lifetime of education.

As SNCOs, we are instructed to mentor and develop our company grade officers. I have found that speaking with the officer training programs here at Maxwell is an excellent way to do that. You never know the effect you have on someone until a situation like this presents itself, but we must always strive to shape and mold those who will follow us. It is very true in life that what goes around comes around.