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APUS Alumni Stories: Mentoring the APUS Community

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By Melanie Conner, APUS Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and William Wenger, AMU Graduate

January is National Mentoring Month, and it was inaugurated in 2002 as a way to promote youth mentoring in the United States (National Mentoring Partnership). National Mentoring Month raises awareness of the need for mentoring in various forms, both personal and professional.

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We recently connected with an AMU graduate, Colonel (retired) William V. “Bill” Wenger, who has over 50 years of mentoring experience. He says, “Mentoring has brought me much satisfaction in seeing success in subordinates who sought me for mentoring.”

Career and Volunteer Experience

William Wenger mentoring
AMU alumnus Bill Wenger

Bill served more than 42 years commissioned service in the U.S. Army on active duty, in the United States Army Reserve, and in Army National Guard as an Infantry, Airborne Ranger. His last command assignment was as Commander of the California Army National Guard.

While serving in the Army, Bill also worked simultaneously as a commercial real estate executive for 30 years and as a college professor at post-graduate level for more than six years. Despite multiple demanding careers, Bill has given a lifetime of service, military and civilian, to his community, state, nation, and to other nations for more than 50 years.

Currently, Bill continues his volunteer service in a wide variety of organizations, including:

  • Department of Defense as a U.S. Army Reserve Ambassador for California
  • Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve as the Greater Los Angeles Area Chairman
  • Southwest Region Director of the U.S. Army Ranger Association
  • Vice President of the Association of the U.S. Army, Greater Los Angeles Chapter
  • Committeeman and Treasurer for the California Hethushka, a Native American philanthropic organization
  • Boy Scouts of America since the 1950s, as an advisor to the Scouts of two Southern California Councils.

Following military retirement in 2000, and after the 9/11 attacks, he volunteered for four active duty combat tours, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. During this time, Bill served as a senior advisor to the Iraqi and Afghan police and armies; as Branch Chief of Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) in Regional Command – South, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); and as Division Chief of C-IED and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training for NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. During his last tour in Iraq, he served in the capacity of a Brigadier General.

Applying His Education to Military Service and to Teaching Others

While serving his first combat tour in Iraq in 2004, Bill completed his Master of Arts degree in Military Studies from American Military University. He pursued the MA in Military Studies to augment his military education and to provide additional business-related perspectives for his military career. In 2019, he earned a Master of Arts in U.S. History with honors from AMU.

Bill earned his Master of Arts in History to fulfill necessary qualifications to teach history at Citrus Community College in Glendora, California, where he previously taught business. Prior to his graduate studies at AMU, Bill earned a Master of Arts in Theater Arts with a concentration on acting at California State University, Long Beach in 1978 and an MBA at Pepperdine University in 1988. He graduated from the U.S. Army War College in 1996 with emphasis on national strategic planning.

In addition to his multiple master’s degrees, Bill sought additional education and completed the following:

  • He expanded his military education, qualifying for four branches of the Army: Infantry, Armor, Air Defense Artillery, and Transportation.
  • He matriculated from two Command and General Staff Courses, Army and USMC.
  • Bill graduated from the USMC Amphibious Warfare Course and completed Phases I and II of the Special Forces Qualification Course.
  • He graduated with “exceeded requirements” from the U.S. Army War College.
  • He completed the studies and extensive writing requirements to become a Certified Property Manager of the Institute of Real Estate Management and a Registered Property Administrator of the Building Owners and Managers Association, International.

Awards and Achievements Throughout His Military Service

During his military career, Bill has earned numerous accolades. He has been awarded and earned more than 60 military awards, decorations, and qualifications, including:

  • Three Bronze Stars,
  • Multiple Joint Service, Army, and one Navy Meritorious Commendation awards,
  • Eight Joint Meritorious Unit Awards,
  • Two Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals,
  • The Combat Action Badge,
  • The Expert Infantryman Badge,
  • U.S. and German Airborne wings, and
  • The Army Ranger Tab.

In 2016 he was the recipient of AMU’s Distinguished Graduate Award. Also that year, Bill was named as an outstanding Alumnus of the U.S. Army War College, a distinction usually reserved only for general officers. Bill has been nominated for the APUS Alumni Service Award for 2020.

Bill’s many years of volunteer service and accolades were recognized by President Donald Trump, who awarded him the Gold Award for Volunteer Service in 2018 as well as the Presidential Lifetime Volunteer Service Award for Bill’s then over 16,000 volunteer service hours.

Mentoring Activities

Bill is active in serving APUS as an Ambassador, a mentor, and as an Advisory Committee member for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu, an international honor society in social sciences. He is a member of Golden Key International Honor Society and was also selected to be a general member of the 2020 Alumni Advisory Council.

Bill joined ClearPath Mentoring in March 2019 after he completed his second master’s with AMU. He enjoys mentoring as it affords him the opportunity to help people succeed and to help people grow.

It is gratifying when I can see a younger colleague apply my advice to achieve significant advantages in their leadership endeavors earlier and more completely than I did at their age. — Bill Wenger

Reflecting on his mentoring experience at AMU, he says, “I mentor others, at their request, to better take advantage of the opportunities, education, and positions in organizations to further their career goals and aspirations.” Bill has also been a mentor in his civilian career in commercial real estate management and has been a mentor during his long military career.

Bill has mentored business executives in real estate management, security and emergency planning experts, military officers and non-commissioned officers of the military services, and police of the United States and of three foreign nations. He has also mentored Boy Scouts, senior Explorer Scouts, and volunteer leaders in a wide variety of non-profit, service, and philanthropic organizations.

Even in military retirement, Bill remains a mentor to many military service members, including those of other NATO nations with whom he has served. He has also enjoyed more than 50 years of mentoring, advising and teaching leadership, planning and time management as an adult leader of the Boy Scouts of America.

Bill has made many lifelong friends who he has mentored and who have mentored him. He says, “I have friends all over the world I have helped, mentored, led, and assisted with their lives, families, and careers as many have done so for me.”

Bill’s advice to those who are looking to mentor or to be a mentee is:

  • If you have a vision and a plan, you can achieve your goals. Without a plan, your ambitions will often fail.
  • Create a realistic but aggressive, ambitious, and personal three, five, and ten-year plan in accordance with your life goals and professional objectives.
  • Establish measurable, quantifiable metrics to determine if your plans are on track or need to be adjusted.
  • Seek mentoring relationships in your field.
  • Actively engage your mentor to advise and counsel you on your goals, objectives, and plans. Mentors appreciate active engagement by their mentees.

Bill Says ‘Persistence Is Key’ to Achieving Goals

Bill believes that persistence is key. He recognizes that one may not always succeed, but he encourages you to never give up on the first or even the fifth try.

A historic leader, esteemed by Bill, Winston Churchill, stated, “Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. If you are going through hell, keep going!”

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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