Retired Army Colonel Reggie Bostick shares a story about his journey with mentorship. It forces us all to ask about our own mentorship story.
For many years I wondered if anyone cared about my place in the world. I often questioned whether I would ever achieve anything notable during my life. I felt lonely, without direction, and at times completely unaware. Frequently, I would go outside, stare into the stars and pray for someone to guide me. It has taken four decades for me to realize that I have never been alone. I have had many mentors, possibly hundreds of them, who have contributed directly to my personal development and success. In this light, I present to you "Mentorship in Acts."
While attending Wofford College in the Spring of 1987, my Professor of Military Science LTC John W. Arrington, looked me in the eyes and stated, "You are a future leader in the Army; you have the rare combination of humility, tenacity, intelligence, and intuitiveness." This was the first time in my life that someone other than my parents believed in me. LTC Arrington put me in charge of the College's ROTC Ranger Detachment and allowed me to hone my leadership skills. When I was commissioned as a 2nd LT, he recited the oath and shook my hand. Once again, he told me, "You will have a long and successful career in the U.S. Army, and I believe in you." This was without question my first encounter with mentorship. I admired LTC Arrington and valued his opinion, but I thought of him as a professor whose significance would only last throughout my academic career. It took years for me to truly understand the impact LTC Arrington's words had on me. He mentored me not out of familial duty but because he believed in the profession of arms. His unwavering support helped shape my career, and thirty-five years later, he continues to be a source of validation.
My first duty station was in Panama, where I was an Infantry lieutenant. The training, missions, and leaders were all directed to the increasing tensions we faced from General Noriega's Panamanian Defense Forces. One weekend, I visited the post exchange and met Colonel Sam Davis. At the time, Colonel Davis took the time to discuss the essence of small-unit leadership techniques. He spoke to me like a friend and not as a superior. He made a connection with me and discussed his personal developmental experiences. Colonel Davis provided me with the guidance, tools, and support I would need throughout my military career. Several years later, I was a Company Commander in the 2/502 Infantry, 101st ABN Division at Fort Campbell, KY. During my first day of in-processing, I walked by a picture of Colonel Davis, serving as the Fort Campbell Garrison Commander. Colonel Davis was a former Battalion Commander of the 2/502 Infantry Brigade. During my tenure at Fort Campbell, Colonel Davis met with me monthly to discuss the principal challenges and strategies I should employ in my unit. He played an instrumental part in providing me with the mentorship and skills needed to become a successful company commander. I will forever be grateful for his guidance and his role in helping me become the man I am today. Colonel Davis' understood that family means everything and that it all begins with having a good life partner; he introduced me to my wife, which I will always be grateful for.
I moved into a new neighborhood in Fayetteville, NC, in 2001, a couple of weeks before 9/11, and deployed to Afghanistan shortly after. When I returned home, my wife told me our neighbor, Colonel Earl Atkinson, wanted to meet me. I immediately went to his home and introduced myself. Colonel Atkinson is a legend in the Special Operations community. He was the former Deputy Commander of the Army's most elite unit in Special Operations, also referred to as 1st Special Operations Operational Detachment -Delta. He understood the difficulties that a career in the military has. He quickly took me under his wing and taught me how to navigate the officer assignment process. Trust and support characterized our interaction over the years. Ultimately, he would play a critical role in my selection as a Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. Colonel Atkinson taught me that I turn the impossible into "I am possible."
The fourth and final act of mentorship is from one of my peers, Colonel (Retired) James "Big Jim" Mullen. James and I have been friends for over thirty-five years. We were lucky to be stationed together at Fort Benning, GA, Fort Bragg, NC, and Fort Belvoir, VA. A career in the military is unpredictable, challenging, and at times full of hardship. My relationship with James transcends any friendship that I have with anyone. Life will bless you with good times and bad times, and James and I have been there for each other. Unequivocal trust and our mutual commitment to mastering the profession of arms were the basis of our friendship. This peer-to-peer mentorship model is the foundation of all my developmental experiences.
The degree to which mentorship has shaped my career is truly humbling. Proper mentorship is an extension of the family, friendships, and professional relationships, which will provide multiple opportunities to reflect deeply and grow spiritually for the rest of our lives.