MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
A Wild Weasel NCO earned the Gen. Billy J. Boles Mentorship Award for his ability to motivate fellow Airmen.
Tech. Sgt. Bradley Haywood, the 35th Fighter Wing equal opportunity NCO in charge, received this recognition because of his ability to inspire his peers to perform at their best, ensuring Airmen receive the support they need to complete their daily responsibilities.
He wasn’t always this award-winning NCO, though. As a young airman, Haywood had a rough start in the Air Force, struggling with his pride and disorganization.
“As a junior Airman, I was unwilling to ask for help, which led to constant small mistakes that were easily avoidable if someone with a little more experience was there to guide me,” expressed Haywood. “It took the help of my mentors, now-Master Sgt. Gabbart and Chief Master Sgt. Zallace, caring enough about me to sit down and remind me that it’s okay to ask for help.”
As a technical sergeant, Haywood still uses the advice he received as an airman.
“The first piece of advice given to me was to learn to pick your battles. Not everything is worth damaging connections with other people,” said Haywood. “Secondly, remember to do everything on your end before contributing blame to others.”
He saw how productive mentorship was for his own career and decided to guide others, finding ways to be just as effective as those who mentored him.
“The tools that I was equipped with as a young airman have been pivotal to being the NCO I am today,” said Haywood. “I leverage what my mentors taught me so as to not make the same mistakes and teach others the same lessons I’ve learned.”
His job consists of dealing with complaints of unlawful discrimination, bullying, hazing and sexual harassment as well as advising commanders on how to foster or maintain a positive human relations climate for the base.
“Working within EO means that I have the chance to effect change on a level I feel I didn’t have in my prior primary duty,” said Haywood. “It’s rewarding to help people out of difficult situations.”
He believes transparency is an important part of mentorship, understanding that everyone makes mistakes and people have different backgrounds as well as life experiences.
Tech. Sgt. Luisa Martinez, the 35th Fighter Wing EO director, believes his motivation to pass on knowledge to others and caring for them as well is what sets him apart from everyone else.
“Haywood is a selfless and dedicated individual, consistently putting others before his own wants and needs,” said Martinez. “The impact he has on this team and the Airmen he’s mentored and supported is immeasurable.”
Haywood involves himself in different forums around base, from Airman Leadership School, First Term Airmen Center and Right Start to sexual assault prevention and response trainings.
“Being an African-American man mentoring other squadron commanders, senior NCOs and Airmen at a time where equal opportunity is criticized in modern day America is surreal,” said Haywood. “At first, I was happy with just helping people who came to my office with EO concerns. Now I am a part of an initiative that is looking to make sweeping changes to policy and the way we do things across the entire Air Force.”
With all this in mind, Haywood tries to provide avenues to encourage discussions, like an African-American experience panel or an open mic night for self-expression and radio shows where he spoke with people from different backgrounds.
“I worked with the command chief to meet with the African American Heritage Association and identified a need for the African-American community here at Misawa to be heard,” said Haywood. “I worked with the AAHA and the 35 Fighter Wing leadership to come up with the panel and open mic night to create a structured and safe environment for Team Misawa members who have been impacted by the social justice movement taking place back in the U.S.”
He believed the panel and open mic night was extremely important for two reasons.
“After the death of George Floyd and the ensuing unrest in the states, discussions and calls for action were taking place throughout the Air Force to include Misawa,” said Haywood. “The panel and open mic night were so important because there are members of our community who needed a platform to be heard.”
He expressed that people are now looking at him as an example of how to act, giving him the ability to influence the Air Force culture in a way few people ever get the chance to do.
Haywood believes you can relate to everyone on some level, there just needs to be an opportunity for face-to-face interaction.
“I should be able to sit across from you and listen to what you have to say, putting aside our different experiences, beliefs, and opinions, remembering in the end we are both human and know what it is like to feel," said Haywood.
All of his efforts have one specific purpose in mind, teaching people how to have a respectful conversation, overall increasing understanding of one another.
For Haywood, mentorship comes down to caring for your community.
“Being a good mentor is taking people under your wing, setting them up for success, while empowering and enabling them to grow not just as Airmen but as individuals,” said Haywood. “Mentorship is everyone’s responsibility. Cultivate those around you.”