KUWAIT – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., raised the question in a speech more than 30 years ago: "What are you doing for others?"
As America celebrated the civil rights leader's legacy, Soldiers in the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team deployed in the Middle East were putting his words into action through mentorship.
"Mentors coach our future leaders and it's important," said U.S. Army Col. Robert Bumgardner, commander of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team. "Soldiers learn from one another, both from the good and bad. I encourage them to seek out mentors who represent where they want to see themselves."
U.S. Army Maj. Hollis Gaynor, the brigade budget officer, said serving as a mentor is rewarding to him because he understands the importance of interaction and discussion. He wants Soldiers to learn different ways to handle certain situations and look at various approaches to problem-solving.
"I have been mentoring a group of junior officers that has grown," said Gaynor. "It's a blessing to me to have this chance to talk to them and share my experiences."
Gaynor said Soldiers should seek out mentors to help them with their career goals and also encourage self-reflection. He added he likes to recommend books he has read that have shaped his philosophy as well as work-life balance.
U.S. Army Capt. Karley Litaker, the brigade assistant logistics officer, said her last mentor taught her the importance of taking on challenging assignments and pushing herself to learn, as well as taking ownership of the job.
"I've always gravitated myself towards mentors and want to surround myself with people who take pride in their job," said Litaker. "We have to represent the very best of the patch we are wearing."
Litaker added one leadership tool she likes to share is for Soldiers to understand the value their work adds to the organization and how their expertise makes an impact. She encourages individuals to think about their service and know what gives them a sense of pride and fulfillment in their job.
Not only was the federal holiday honoring King a day to reflect on his civil rights work and teachings, but it was also a day of service where citizens were encouraged to find ways to improve their communities.
"Something I've always told my own children and I share with our Soldiers in that leadership is about service to others," said Bumgardner. "Leaders are servers."
The 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team is comprised of National Guard Soldiers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia and Washington. They are deployed to the Middle East to support Operation Spartan Shield.