PORTLAND, Ore. -- Master Sgt. Paul Freimark, the 142nd Wing’s Base Education Training Manager (BETM), has had many titles and roles throughout his over 20-year career. He’s been called a Sailor, Hotel Manager, Husband, and Father. Yet perhaps his most defining title, is that of “mentor”.
As the BETM, Freimark is responsible for scheduling formal school training, professional military education, and ensuring Unit Training Managers (UTM) are well-versed in their responsibilities. In addition to his regular duties, Freimark takes the extra step by hosting monthly working sessions with UTMs in order to make his expertise available and ensure trainers can pass meaningful information onto their Airmen.
“You want to be that voice that you wish you had,” said Freimark, “that kind of mentor and guiding light to help people.”
Tech. Sgt. Carson Mathers, a UTM with the 142nd CERFP, finds Freimark an invaluable resource, and one that helps him be a better UTM and mentor to his own Airmen.
“He's just a go-to resource for all things training,” said Mathers, “a lot of newer people want to know the ‘why’ behind what we're doing and being able to provide a legitimate answer [to them] from Freimark really helps.”
For Freimark, his passion for mentorship is a personal one; stemming from a career in customer service as a hotel manager, and a desire to help Airmen navigate important milestones in their military careers.
“People want to feel like they're being taken care of,” said Freimark, “We have an obligation as wingmen to be able to support [Airmen’s] growth and development, whether it's personal or professional.”
During his years in the Navy, Freimark didn’t have a mentor to guide him through the complex nature of military retirements and transferring military services. For him, it was an experience where he made mistakes, and learned how the system worked along the way.
“I did 20 plus years in the Navy, four years active duty, and then the rest in the reserves,” said Freimark, “I didn’t want to go, but they told me ‘You gotta go.' Afterward, when I wasn’t getting my retirement package I was like ‘why am I not getting this stuff?’”
It turned out that Freimark was short of his retirement eligibility by 18 months and wouldn’t be able to qualify for retirement benefits. Because of his retirement shortfall, Freimark began to research options for continuing his service; a search that eventually led him to the Oregon Air National Guard, and the 142nd Wing.
The move gave Freimark the ability to secure his retirement, but more importantly, it provided a forum to utilize his life experience to help servicemembers avoid similar issues.
“I feel like I have an opportunity to mentor people, so they don't go through what I went through,” said Freimark, “[People] want to know what opportunities they have, whether it's right or wrong or otherwise.”
Freimark’s people-first mentality can be linked to his years of experience in hospitality. It’s given him strong management skills and helped him develop a keen ability to stay organized in a fast-paced environment.
“In the hotel business, you have to reprioritize every day,” said Freimark, “That experience has landed me an opportunity to be able to pivot in a moment's notice and reprioritize, but also circle back to make sure that I hold people accountable for the job they're expected to do.”
While oftentimes it’s easy to get burdened with everyday tasks, Freimark argues that taking the time to work as a mentor, and advocate for process improvements can pay dividends in the future.
“I think too often we worry that we're too busy,” said Freimark, “when you talk about mentorship, I think a lot of it is creating a culture of collaboration that the person that has the least amount of experience has as much value as the person that has the greatest amount of experience.”
For Freimark, his role as the BETM has been a meaningful bookend to a varied career, allowing him to utilize everything he’s learned and experienced and use it to help the next generation forge a better path forward.
“This is the best job I've had because I feel like I'm making a difference,” said Freimark “I'm blessed, I'm fortunate, I'm grateful.”