Forging the Wings of Future Leaders

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lindsey Heflin
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

In his shop on the flight line, Airman Kieran Denehan, B-1 Lancer avionics specialist stationed at Dyess AFB, Texas, was the lowest ranking member in his shop.


“I was young and ignorant, and my director and NCO’s weren’t the most nurturing,” Denehan recalls.

The direction of his life changed, however, when a technical sergeant and chief master sergeant took Denehan under their wing and steered him away from hanging out with the wrong crowd and encouraged educational opportunities. And when it came to complaining about his base, his mentors said simply, “You might not like your location, but if you’re good at what you do, you can change that.”

And that’s exactly what Denehan did.

Fast forward nearly 35 years later, Denehan is now Colonel Denehan, Air Force Global Strike Command A3T division chief, and is helping young Airmen explore their potential and navigate their way through the Air Force with a program at Barksdale AFB called the Airmen Mentorship Program (AMP).

Founded by Master Sgt. Lemuel Oliver, 2nd Force Support Squadron section chief, AMP was created with the goal of connecting Airmen, and molding one another into becoming better versions of themselves.

“One of my core principles in life is leaving it better than you found it,” Oliver said. “Being in the military, we have a limited time with what we are engaged in because of the inevitable PCS, TDY or deployment. My goal is to deliberately develop everyone under my sphere of influence and when we part ways, my hope is that my Airmen are better from when we first started.”

Oliver pitched the program to the Barksdale Total Force Development Council in the summer of 2019, and the program was approved unanimously. The council provided full support, and as word spread the program caught fire and mentor/mentee relationships began.

One of the relationships that formed was between Denehan and Senior Airman Austen Rodriguez, former EA controller at the 2nd Bomb Wing command post.

Rodriguez vocalized his dream of commissioning to Denehan, with the hopes of attaining a pilot slot. Through grit and determination, along with a ban of supporters, including Denehan, Rodriguez’s aspirations became a reality as he found out that he would become a member of Detachment 905 at Washington State University, Wash., where he would begin pursuing his bachelor’s degree and claim a pair of butter bars.

“My mentor helped propel me forward from being an Airman to being a cadet in an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program,” Rodriguez said. “Whenever I have questions about being an Air Force officer, need guidance as a cadet, or just want to geek out about cool planes in the fleet, he is always a call or text away.”

Reflecting on the meaning of mentorship, Denehan expressed that everyone sees the world a certain way and mentors help their mentee see something in a different view and catch the blind spots.

This mentality is similar to another mentor/mentee relationship between Master Sgt. Nicole Waldren, Air Force Global Strike Command Functional Manager for Aerospace Physiology, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Ngo, 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron customer service liaison.

Waldren said that getting to know Ngo has affected what she prioritizes and how strongly she feels about the impact Air Force leaders should be trying to make.

“No matter your rank, we can all influence each other’s growth and help one another find fulfillment in our careers,” Waldren said. “If I can encourage positive change or provide a helpful perspective to someone else, I wanted to make myself available for that.”

For Ngo, having never had a mentor before, he wasn’t sure what to expect. But through his discussions with Waldren he learned the value of having an open mindset.

“I really do look up to her, she’s an amazing individual,” Ngo explained. “She’s opened my eyes to things where I felt like I would narrow in on; she helped me see the big picture.” 

A point that Waldren often brought up to her mentee is to always look for the opportunity, lesson and accomplishment in every situation that has been put before you because every experience has value.

For Rodriguez, he never imagined that in a few short years he would be a cadet, and for his mentor it was a similar situation. By connecting with one another through AMP, Denehan was able to help Rodriguez accomplish his dreams like his mentors did for him.

“Knowing I have some gold bars and potentially the keys to a cockpit waiting for me on the other side gives me this amazing sense of drive to accomplish my goals,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve finally found my calling and it’s coming from the sky.


Interested in becoming a mentee or mentor? Fill out an application here:

For any questions, please email the AMP Org Box: