Lifelong meteorologist puts mentoring first

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rachel Hammes
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

On September 12, 1960, Bruce Telfeyan found his calling. Or, rather, the shrieking winds and punishing rain found him.

“I had just turned 12,” he said. “Hurricane Donna hit us directly and caused much damage and suffering. From that point on, I knew I wanted to be a meteorologist.”

Telfeyan did not waver from that interest, eventually commissioning through Air Force ROTC and joining the Air Force 1972. His first assignment was at the Air Force Global Weather Central, where one of his supervisors, the late Maj. Richard Wagner, was the father of the current 557th Weather Wing vice commander, Col. Richard Wagner.

Since retiring in 1993, Telfeyan has joined the civil service, where he has spent 23 years watching the 557th WW through several incarnations.

Throughout his career, Telfeyan’s most meaningful moments occurred when he was able to mentor new generations of Airmen or meteorologists.

At one point, he was assigned to the Air Force ROTC program and spent four years as an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In this capacity, he helped three cadets become weather officers.

From November 1998 to November 2008, Telfeyan worked as a branch chief, and took the initiative to create mentorship programs.

“I started an intern program in the summers where we’d bring in meteorological students from University of Nebraska and Creighton and Iowa State, and they’d be summer hires,” said Telfeyan, who now works as a senior meteorologist in the Wing’s planning division. “We found a way, most years, to get them selectively continued as part time workers through the school year. I had such great times working with these young people. It was so special mentoring them.”

Telfeyan kept in touch with many of the interns, even after his move from that position.

“Seven work in the 557th as civil servants or contractors, six became National Weather Service meteorologists, one is a TV meteorologist, one is an Air Force weather officer, three are Air Force pilots and two earned their PhDs in meteorology,” he said. “That was a really great experience and a source of pride for me, simply being able to have an impact on people’s professional development.”

Ken Smith, the Operational Weather Requirements Manager at the 557th WW, has worked with Telfeyan for 22 years, and watched him mentor the interns.

“He would take a photograph of everyone who came through the summer internship program,” he said. “He had almost a family – I think he still has the book of photos in his office. He helps people understand the bigger picture of how they fit in.”

Telfeyan said mentorship is something that comes naturally to him.

“Maybe it’s just part of what makes us human,” he said. “You try to nurture good qualities in people. I have a built-in desire to try to pass along whatever wisdom I might have and to help people get through some of the rough spots in life, and be able to make good decisions.”

Master Sgt. Tomas, NCO in charge of the Science Exploitation Team with the 16th Weather Squadron, said Telfeyan’s mentorship has helped him numerous times throughout their eight year friendship.

“He’s helped me personally, to be a father, to be a supervisor and a better NCO,” he said. “Professionally, he’s provided so much weather knowledge that has helped me greatly.”

Tomas said Telfeyan’s time at the WW has bettered it.

“He is a very great person – not only professionally, but as an individual,” he said. “He is very positive role model in the 557th WW. One thing that amazes me about him is the years of service, both military and civilian, he has with this organization. His level of expertise in this career field is amazing.”

Telfeyan said being in a leadership role comes with a choice to get involved in the lives of your subordinates.

“Each of us can choose if we want to get involved in other people’s business – and sometimes we’re told hey, leave me alone,” he admitted. “Being a commander is an assignment you really cherish, and I always look back and wish I had done better. But you’re always learning.”