Desk of the Chairman
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!”
NCOA members & fellow veterans:
It was one of the most significant moments in my life when I was selected to fill the position of Chairman of your International Board of Directors. I can pledge to all of you that NCOA is looking to move into the next century for you. All service organizations are struggling for membership and purpose. Many are chained to their past and reluctant if not fearful of the road ahead. The past is our legacy and cannot be forgotten, but without a future, our legacy will fade away when we do. Failure is not an option and I commit to each of you that I and your Board will work tirelessly to ensure that we have a future.
How are we going to do that? The most important thing we need to do is listen! Look at programs, benefits, ideas that help us provide support for our troops. We are not going to forget how we got to where we are but we will make a serious commitment to the needs of our Active Duty and Reserve/National Guard forces as they are facing societal changes that most of us couldn’t even imagine when we served. We all need to ask and not assume that we know what makes todays forces tick. We need to think about things that include family rather than just focus on the troops. Many of today’s force have families and with the numerous deployments that have occurred, asking our troops to go to a meeting that takes them away from their families that they have been away from is not likely to be successful. Family events like BBQ’s, picnics, pizza parties etc. can bring the whole family together.
The recent conference in Washington DC was recorded live and has been posted on NCOA’s Facebook page. Check it out and hear what the SEAC and the rest of the E-10’s had to say about our forces and the significant role NCOA can play in supporting our troops. When your chapters have a function, do a live feed on your phone and post it to Facebook. Send stories about what your chapter or group is doing and send them to NCOA to put on our website.
I am accessible and want to hear from you. I am your chairman and your Board is here for you. We need to hear your ideas and thoughts. I can assure you that they will not fall on deaf ears. Send your ideas about groups and projects that NCOA can work with to make us more in tuned with today’s military. We need to rekindle the excitement within our membership. You joined for a reason. Remember what it was and go and recruit someone else so that they can experience that same feeling. Our membership director, SGM Joe Terry is the right person at the right time to grow this association, but he needs your help. I need your help! I pledge to you that I will do everything possible to meet “your” needs. Start thinking outside the box. It can really become an exciting experience.
Chapters need to become more visible. Knights need to start leading. I can tell you that your Board of Directors is engaged. How about you? We are looking all over the country for locations to hold our 2019 annual conference. We are looking to hold costs down and have activities for families. Start looking forward to July 2019. Every single chapter should send a minimum of one member. We are not going back to Las Vegas and are looking towards the center of the country to cut down on travel.
Strength in Unity and Leadership By Example,
Terry M. Haines
MCPO USNR (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors
Non Commissioned Officers Association
“NCOA is the Vanguard of all Veterans… Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!”
I want to expand on my last column a bit. It started off with a sharing of the significant accomplishments of Rogue Chapter members over the past year. It then switched to explaining the rationale for why my older generation felt it was important to share with those who come after us why we do what we do. Finally it went on to share some specific examples of what I had done to find out what types of things were important to a small sample of younger people as motivation to ignite a conversation with other younger people that could possibly lead to a resurgence of NCOA moving forward. My final thought was to charge all that read the article to share their ideas with me so that we could make changes to what we do and why we do it. I then asked to hear from you!
I made one fatal flaw. I failed to properly communicate. The article was posted to a website with the assumption that members would go to the website and read it; then respond. My flaw was that I assumed that it would be read and acted upon. The real flaw was that I assumed the entire chapter membership
knew what the website address was and would take the time to go there and read it. It didn’t happen. In the old days when we sent newsletters to all of our members, my columns would be mailed to everyone and most members read them. By going high tech we eliminated the certainty of chapter leadership being able to receive information and make a choice as to whether to react. Now communication requires a conscious act on the part of each member to seek out information and it also requires that each member be motivated to want to stay connected.
Communication is such a simple process but it has gotten more complicated with the advent of technology. Most of the older generations rely on the US Post Office to receive information or perhaps a personal telephone call. The younger generations live on their cell phones and text rather than talk. They follow Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram or a myriad of other technological programs that exist. Websites can have a lot of information on them but if it stays the same and isn’t constantly upgraded, it becomes useless and is quickly dismissed.
Getting people to go to a meeting is rapidly disappearing as an option to share information. How then do we communicate with our intended targets going forward? Perhaps as you are beginning to see, it is getting complicated. Even if you can get people into a venue to have some type of conversation, there are still a lot of people, for whatever reason, which fail to acknowledge that a communication problem exists in today’s society. There are so many options for people to choose from and the only option that provides a reasonable chance that your message will be received and understood is if you send the message over every single method available in today’s society. That is realistically not possible for most volunteer organizations that don’t have a full time person that is connected with the full range of communication options. Even sending one paragraph of this text could not be done on some of the options available today because of character limitations.
So how do we improve communication? First off, we must admit that there is a lot of room for improving communication. Secondly, we must admit that the answer for one will not necessarily work for all. Lastly, it is going to take a lot of effort.
I need input from each of you on how we can reach young people. I will post this on our website as well as put it on Facebook and email it out to everyone with an email address, but that still won’t get to everyone. We must all talk to people within our sphere of influence. We must then listen to what they say and not assume that we know what they will say! Jumping to conclusions may require a lot of effort but rarely provides accurate outcomes. Let me hear from you!