Getting involved: give service before self

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristin Mack
  • 301st Fighter Wing
With a new year under way, many individuals resolve to get more involved in plans for their own personal growth. For those individuals who are interested in developing skills, expanding their network, and supporting several causes, both locally and nationally, there are three exceptional organizations designed to meet those needs. 

Three organizations were developed with the military's interest in mind and are designed to give back in support and benefits daily. They are: the Air Force Association which supports all Air Force personnel: active duty, retired, Reserve and Guard -- enlisted, officer and civilian; the Air Force Sergeants Association created for Air Force enlisted personnel who are active duty, Guard and Reserve; and the Reserve Officer Association which is open to all officers in the Reserve forces. 

Air Force Association: 

This organization originated in 1946 by Generals Jimmy Doolittle and Hap Arnold when they discovered the need to create a professional organization to ensure stability and continuation of the Air Force. Their mission is to educate the public about the critical role of aerospace power in the defense of our nation; advocate aerospace power and a strong national defense; and support the U.S. Air Force and their families. 

"Our big local push is to support the aerospace education of Arnold Air Society detachments," said Master Sgt. Ross Wood, AFA local chapter president and 301st Honor Guard superintendent. "We also give cash donations for summer camp, sponsor a cadet for the wing civic leader trip and established the Earl North Parker awards program to support the local Air Force community. This program awards $100 to $300 scholarships based on an essay submission program." 

This group also publishes the acclaimed Air Force Magazine and sponsors several public awareness programs. Their largest annual function is the Black Tie event, a major fund-raiser sponsored by several aerospace companies in the area. This year's event will be held at the Texas Motor Speedway and feature General Bruce Carlson, Air Force Material Command commander, as the guest speaker. 

"I like the fact that I've met both retired and active-duty people whom I normally would not have met," Sergeant Wood said. Sergeant Wood is very actively involved in both the AFA and Air Force Sergeants Association. As a member of AFA executive committee he has the privilege to attend the VIP reception preceding the Black Tie event where numerous aerospace executives and accomplished military professionals gather before the ceremony begins. For more information about the AFA, visit their Web site www.afa.org. 

Air Force Sergeants Association: 

This association began in 1961 and represents more than 135,000 active duty and retired enlisted members of the U.S. Air Force, Guard and Reserve. They have fought and won several pay and quality of life issues over the years to support Air Force enlisted personnel and their families. They support scholarship programs, founded the Airmen Memorial Foundation, and the Airmen Memorial Museum dedicated to the heritage and accomplishments of all Air Force enlisted people. 

According to Sergeant Wood, who recently assumed the president position with the local chapter, there are many ways to be directly involved in this association. 

"If there is an interest to become involved, the trustee is the ground floor initiation to the AFSA," said Sergeant Wood. "This is the opportunity to attend meetings and see what the officers do -- positions move up all of the time." 

One major AFSA event is the annual awards banquet to be held this August in Orlando, Fla. This one-week retreat combines professional military education with seminars and a formal dinner. It also gives the attendees an opportunity to vote on initiatives that will be addressed at Capitol Hill in the coming months. 

"The AFSA supports lobbying efforts for legislation and has a positive impact for our people," said Travis Claridge, AFSA Chapter 1055 trustee. Mr. Claridge frequents the 301st to provide information and awareness for this association by setting up a display table near the main entrance of the 301st Headquarters building for membership and event details. To learn more about this organization, visit their Web site at www.AFSAHQ.org. 

Reserve Officer Association: 

This group, which began in 1922, is the oldest of the three organizations and represents officers from all branches of the services. Their mission is to "...support and promote the development and execution of a military policy for the United States that will provide adequate security." They provide a wide range of professional and personal benefits including, professional development workshops, mentoring programs, and a career center to meet the unique needs of their members. 

"They share initiatives, develop people personally and professionally, and inform them about what is going on," said 301st Maintenance Group executive assistant Capt. April Schroeder. 

Captain Schroeder is the vice president of the 301st FW ROA local chapter 70, which meets here every two months. The next meeting will be held in March. 

Captain Schroeder commented further on a corollary organization called the Reserve Enlisted Association. "The ROA and REA work together like brothers and sisters, sharing ideas and lobbying congress to support issues," she said. 

One of ROA's many accomplishments was influencing the establishment of the Reserve Component Caucus in the House of Representatives. This bipartisan caucus has more than 60 members and provides congressional oversight of Reserve issues and programs, as well as a focal point for legislative issues and actions, that affects every aspect of the Reserve forces. 

They also hold annual state and national meetings open for their members and guests to attend. For more information, visit their Web site at www.roa.org. 

These three military associations have very distinct differences and missions yet all work toward one common goal: to support the needs and interests of those who serve or have served in the military and their dependents. They are all headquartered near Capitol Hill and broken down into divisions and chapters to reach all of their members on a local level. Refer to their respective Web sites to learn more or to get involved.