Desk of the Chairman
This month I want to try something different. NCOA in its current form has been doing things a certain way since 1960 when we were first created as a Veteran’s Service Organization. Our mission calls for us to fight for quality of life for all enlisted personnel and their families from all five branches of the military.
We have received a number of thought provoking ideas about where we are weak as an association and I must agree that we have a lot of room for improvement, but I have said it before and I will reiterate it again, failure is not an option. It is a foregone conclusion that we need an injection of youth into our organization in order to keep up with the times. The flow of new recruits into all branches of the military is healthy enough that we still are an all-volunteer military. Considering that we as a nation have been at war for almost 17 years, it is amazing that our force still maintains its status as the best fighting force in the world. How can that be? Many in the older generation think that the younger generation does nothing but play video games and text on their phones. While that perception may be partially true for some of the younger generation, how can it be absolutely true with all of those who are serving today? They can’t maintain our fighting force at such an elite level by keeping their nose buried in a cell phone or playing video games 24/7.
Maybe those who are serving have some the same stuff that we had when we joined decades ago. They must be patriotic or why would they sign up knowing there is a good chance they will be deployed to a combat theater? They must have some level of discipline. They must have some sense of loyalty.
I have talked to many younger sailors and soldiers and they have some level of desire to improve their community. I propose that this younger generation has many of the same qualities that we had, but it just manifests itself differently than we are used to seeing.
We have spent years complaining about what is wrong with everything in our lives. There isn’t much wrong with this world and NCOA that hasn’t already been identified and analyzed. I am asking you today to shift gears. What do we do well? Come at this exercise as if the glass is half full rather than half empty. Talk to young people and listen? Stop assuming that you know what they think or you will never hear what they are saying. Brainstorm with the younger generation. What do they want? How do they want to accomplish it? How can NCOA help? What do they need that they can’t get from the military?
It is time we all started looking for solutions rather than dwelling on problems! If you have any suggestions as to how we should operate as an organization, I want to hear about it. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I can assure you that your thoughts, ideas and suggestions will not be ignored. I pass every email that I get onto the entire leadership team. We want to turn NCOA into a leading veterans service organization that makes a difference for you and your family no matter whether you are in your 20’s or your 60’s. I say again, “Failure is not an option!”
Strength in Unity & Leadership By Example
Terry M. Haines
Chairman, International Board of Directors
My fellow NCOA members and those nonmembers who have served this nation with pride, past and present, you are appreciated. A life of service in uniform made most if not all of us grow up a bit and instilled many qualities that the world around us only wish they had, like discipline, leadership, integrity and many more qualities too numerous to mention.
Life in this country over the last several years has been a challenge, particularly if you no longer have the structure of being in the military as a safety blanket to fall back onto. Every day we are challenged by circumstances seemingly out of our control that stretch that safety blanket to a point where on some level or another it begins to rip. We are constantly being pressured to compromise our values, our standards and in some cases even our friendships.
When I became a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy, I took on additional personal and professional challenges to take care of my people, no matter what, and that is a challenge that I have kept even after I retired. I assume that there is a similar standard that all noncommissioned officers in all branches of the military take on from the time that they find themselves in charge of men and women in uniform.
During these challenging times in our nation when we as men and women find ourselves under constant attempts by society, the media, politicians, and in some cases even our own families to forget where we came from and what we learned in the military, I ask you to take a deep breath and think about your core values. Our NCOA President, Vince Patton, said it best when he called us all to live by the 9 core values that make up our 5 branches. Loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity, courage, commitment and excellence are not just a list of words; they are standards that all who have served should live by.
Every single organization in this country has challenges. That is because every organization is being run by human beings that are not perfect. I can tell you that NCOA has an exceptional human being as our national commander. When I took over the reins of the Board of Directors, I was humbled. I love this association and I have confidence in our leadership. We are actively looking for programs that will provide you with the kind of benefits that will truly impact your lives and the lives of those who are or will serve. We are also looking for benefits that no other organization has so that we can stand out as a group looking out for you!
We need your help. Do you have a spouse or family member that is not a member of NCOA? Do you have a co-worker or a friend who served in the military that believes like you in the core values mentioned above? Sign them up and give us a stronger voice so that we can do even more than what we have been able to accomplish to date. You can go to our website at www.ncoausa.org and look at who we are and what we are doing. Every day we are striving to improve because we believe in you. If you have thoughts or concerns, contact me at email@example.com and I guarantee that your views will be taken seriously. Failure is not an option and improvement is happening daily.
My last couple of articles has brought responses from several members ranging from Thailand to the west and Michigan and points in between. All of your thoughts have been shared with staff and the entire board of directors and actions have been taken on every single response that you send to me. We want you to continue sharing your feedback.
July starts with the annual celebration of our freedom and the birth of our nation. July 4th is when many of us participate in patriotic parades, family BBQ’s and fireworks displays. I remember when I was deployed to Iraq in 2005, our base had a contest. All units were provided a copy of the Declaration of Independence. All units were to read it to the troops, sign a muster and turn it into the base chaplain. What a way to help our citizens, or troops in this example, remember what the 4th of July is all about. We stand a little taller when the flag goes by in a parade and puff out our chests a bit when a military formation of jets flies over our parade.
Our nation isn’t perfect, but it is what we make of it and for all that have served, our time in uniform should have or still does make us proud. Service whether in uniform or out brings out a sense of pride that we will hopefully pass on to our next generation. Have you sat down and spent any time reflecting on the feelings that we had when serving alongside of our brothers and sisters in uniform. The comradeship we formed with those we served alongside will last a lifetime. The same goes for service outside of uniform. Contributing to the improvement of your community is one way that you can make a difference today.
We see so much disruption in our communities and yearn for order to our lives. My question to you is what can or will you do about it? In the military it was simple. Our leadership developed a plan and within the organization we executed that plan. Now you are no longer in that unit. You ask yourself what can I do about it? You were a noncommissioned or petty officer in the military and by definition were the ones who most often made things happen. Take that training and experience use it to positively impact your community. If conditions are disruptive enough that you spend time dwelling on the situation then why not do something to make it more palatable. We don’t need to and should not resort to any kind of physical confrontation, but there are ways to make a positive impression and change hearts.
Have you worked with youth groups and taken the time to explain why you have patriotic feelings? Have you taken the time to explain why the flag means so much to you? Have you explained to your friends and co-workers what it means to serve your country and that when you signed up, you committed to support and defend the constitution at a potential cost of up to and including your own life? Many who have never served don’t know and understand that. Perhaps veterans need to educate the public and just maybe we can turn things around in this country.
NCOA is an organization that was created to take care of quality of life for our enlisted forces. Helping to maintain that same quality after we separate is just as important. Start by getting involved in the solution today. Sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing is part of the problem. I want to hear from you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Failure is not an option!
Some of you may be thinking to yourself, who is this guy that keeps writing these articles. As the brand new Chairman of the Board, I feel it is one of my most sacred and important duties. For years, NCOA pretty much disappeared from your view. You may be able to find your member card and it may be filed away in a drawer or lock box. Only about 20% of our membership is assigned to a chapter and even many of those groups are not close enough to the center of activity of the chapter that they are assigned to.
Most of our membership is a life member and no longer in an active or drilling status. The NCOA that you joined, in some cases many decades ago, has changed just like the world around us. I am actively involved with a chapter so I am familiar with many of the issues that chapters deal with on a daily basis. Most of you are not actively involved at the chapter level. You may be active in a VFW or American Legion post or a DAV chapter and that is where you invest your time. I myself am a member of at least five organizations as are many of you. All veteran service organizations have done some remarkable things for our troops, veterans and their communities and I hope that they continue to help their brothers and sisters that have served.
Here is why I am writing this article today. Times are changing and if we don’t make some changes to how we do business, nothing accomplished by any organization will last beyond the memory of the last surviving member. Our Legacy will disappear when we do. I have spoken to representatives of several organizations and many feel that there is a disconnect between what goes on in their community and the leadership of their national organization. Most feel that leadership at the top end realizes that we all need to bring youth into our organizations but they appear to be going about it in the wrong way. They are trying to get the youth to fit into their system rather than modifying their system to entice younger members. That is kind of along the fit a square peg into a round hole. It may work occasionally when the square peg is smaller than the hole, but it rarely leads to success.
NCOA is reviewing all of our By-Laws, chapter by-laws etc. to see if we can put some operational flexibility in place for our chapters as well as motivate members who want to make a difference. Do we need to meet as often? Do we need to come together in a building or can we take advantage of the technology available to use phone, I-pads, SKYPE and other options to conduct meetings.
The military op-tempo since 9/11 has been hard on our troops and their families. Many of our Reserve component forces almost feel like full-time active duty because of the number of times that they have been deployed. Today’s needs are different than they were prior to 9/11. We must change. This month alone we have added some new benefits that begin to address our changing environment. ACP came on board and will offer professional mentorship programs with fortune 500 companies for our members. We are close to finalizing an agreement with Give an Hour that will offer free confidential mental health counselling for our members. These exciting additions to our benefits as of this writing are not offered by most of the other veteran service organizations.
Times are changing and it is always better to be on the crest of change than in the trough behind it. I want to hear from you. You have ideas and right now, we need to hear them. Email me at email@example.com and put NCOA input in the subject line. Failure is not an option and we will continue to move forward.
Strength in Unity & Leadership By Example;
Terry M Haines
Chairman, NCOA Board of Directors
Fellow members and patriots, it has been over a month since our conference in Washington DC. Your staff has been busy working on issues to improve our benefits, develop membership recruiting drives and incentives for members and chapters to assist in growing our great association and to develop programs that will enhance our position within the Veteran Service organization community.
I have spoken with local representatives of a number of organizations and I sense a disconnect with many organizations between their “on the ground” membership and the national leadership. NCOA does not have a huge organization of personnel and facilities that must be financially supported by the membership. We have a paid staff of 4. The Board of Directors are all volunteers and as such, things may take a little longer to get done than if someone was sitting in an office collecting a paycheck and being paid to make things happen. Don’t get me wrong, every other veteran service organization has dedicated volunteers that do great things every day.
When I was elevated to the position of Chairman of the Board, I fully accepted the responsibility of being a part of serving each and every one of your needs. It is my pledge to you to listen to your concerns about areas that need improvement as well as ideas how we can make NCOA the leading voice for all enlisted members of our armed forces, past present and future. If you are an enlisted member of our active duty, reserve component, separated or retired from any of the five branches of the military, we are your voice. Just about every other veteran service organization in existence has some sort of eligibility filter in place that you must fit into in order to join and participate. We don’t! We accept all enlisted members and even have a category for officers that understand the value of enlisted personnel that defend this country. So I suppose that you can say we really are the voice of our military.
The next thing that I want to address is that we have done a poor job of communicating with our membership ever since we quit mailing out monthly magazines. A recent effort to communicate brought back responses like, ”oh, are you still in existence?” . Many of our members are members at large and when I was doing a project to try and clean up our database, I contacted members all over the country and found that there were a lot out there that would be willing to contribute time and energy to help NCOA climb back to the top. NCOA and I need your help! The Board of Directors at our last meeting decided that we need to do something about re-connecting with many of these members at large. Chapters are authorized to contact headquarters and request a roster of all NCOA members that reside within a reasonable distance from your chapter. You can then request that members at large be assigned to your chapter. If there are multiple chapters in a state, work together with those chapters to coordinate efforts. That will potentially be a good boost to your chapter’s membership. With that membership comes a responsibility. I realize that some members at large may not want to be affiliated with anyone, but there may be a good percentage of those members that could and would be willing to help your chapters. It is worth the effort to try and identify those who would like to help. If a member doesn’t want to participate with NCOA any longer, they can always go onto member planet and opt out, but that is their choice and not for you to worry about.
In order for this plan to work, chapters must communicate with their members. Create a Facebook page or a webpage for your chapter and encourage all of your member to connect with these media. Try to create a mail group for your members using email. My chapter has a local group and a remote group so I don’t send information to the remote group that pertains to a local event that these remote members wouldn’t attend, but you can keep your membership informed about new programs, legislative news etc. without bothering them with information that they wouldn’t be interested in. The bottom line is that we need to communicate better. It will take time and effort but those investments will pay dividends for your chapter and NCOA.
I will be communicating with you all regularly because it is important for you to know what is going on and it is equally important for you to have a communication channel with your leadership so that we can continue to improve our organization and move forward. No idea is a bad idea and even if an idea didn’t work at some point in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Please let me help you make this NCOA the true voice of our enlisted forces!
Strength in Unity and Leadership By Example;
Terry M. Haines
Chairman, Board of Directors
“NCOA is the Vanguard of all Veterans… Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!”