Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, October 25, 2013

14th AF Airman committed to mentoring local youth

by Maj. Larry van der Oord
14th Air Force Public Affairs

10/23/2013 - VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Whether it's working with kids at the YMCA of Santa Maria, Calif., volunteering at local schools or mentoring at-risk adolescents at juvenile hall, Master Sgt. Jim Desgrange is committed to making a difference in the lives of his community's youth.

Desgrange currently serves as non commissioned officer in charge within the requirements branch of the 14th Air Force communications directorate here at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. During the course of his assignment, he has immersed himself into a number of programs aimed at counseling young people in the area.

Early in his time at 14th AF, Desgrange forged a relationship with Krista Delia who works as the lead volunteer coordinator for the Santa Maria YMCA. Delia quickly introduced him to a number of opportunities where he could get involved in the community.

"These programs are a great way to reach young guys and girls and let them know what options they have available before they find it's too late to make certain choices," said Desgrange.

In his work at the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, Desgrange volunteers his time to a program that helps redirect the lives of young people who have found themselves in a bad way. He counsels kids on life-changing choices and presents the Air Force, among other avenues, as a potential career path for their future.

"We talk about careers in the Air Force, as well as the other choices that are out there around the time people consider joining the military," said Desgrange. "We try to help them understand that their lives are up to them, and that life is dependent upon the choices you make - both good and bad."

Oddly enough, Desgrange enjoys when he hears from corrections officers at the Santa Maria Juvenile Hall about the kids that do not come back to the program. That means those individuals are not repeat offenders. Officers attribute many of those cases to the impact of mentorship from Desgrange and the "Air Force crew" brought in to speak to the group.

"The uniform helps grab their attention," said Desgrange. "I have heard of at least four kids actively seeking out a military recruiter. So I will call that a win."

Desgrange also volunteers at at local high school and junior high career days focused on providing advice and skills for job searches, interviewing and resume writing.

"The school career days are great because I'm able to talk with students looking for jobs and careers right out of high school," he said. "In addition to sharing my personal experience about choosing the Air Force as a career, I am able to listen to their questions and offer input on whatever path they may be considering."

Desgrange's volunteer work has been highlighted multiple times in the Santa Maria YMCA's monthly newsletter, and he is continually grateful for the chance to serve his community.

"I get to talk with people from all different walks of life, listen to their thoughts on the world and hear what they think of the future," he said. "Sometimes it's funny, and other times it can be a dose of reality. But, I find every event to be inspiring. Each one fuels me to keep seeking out the next opportunity to get involved."

In addition to his daily duties managing all communication related projects across the unit, Desgrange is very active around the base. He has taught three NCO professional enhancement courses, served as the 14th AF lead for the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign and is an instructor for the hard core fitness class at Vandenberg AFB Fitness Center.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed by 14th AF leadership.

"Jim is one of those rare Airmen that not only excels in his professional endeavors, but also sets a shining example for how to live out the Air Force Core Values in all aspects of his life," said Col. Scott Merrell, 14th AF director of logistics, communications, and security. "His continued work with the base and local community, in particular, are what I think of when I hear the phrase, "service before self," and it is also why I tend to think of Jim as a consummate servant leader."

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