Keeping Focus
As the new president of the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, Steve Taylor hopes to build on the chapterAca,!a,,cs successes.

Even though he retired from the Army some eight years ago, Steve Taylor still judges the productivity of each day by one question - "What have you done for the Soldier today'"

That question is printed on Taylor's business cards. It is emblazoned on a framed poster that has followed Taylor throughout much of his career and is now hanging on a wall in his corporate office. And it's a question he urges everyone associated with the Army to think about for themselves.

"That's basically the challenge I've laid out for our chapter leadership. They should ask that question every day," Taylor said.

Now, as the new president of the internationally recognized Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, Taylor will bring that question to bear on all the chapter's existing programs and new initiatives.

From the looks of things, the chapter's board of directors and volunteers are already living up to Taylor's question. This highly active AUSA chapter of 2,850 individual members and more than 325 corporate members has been recognized as the best AUSA chapter in the world for five straight years. Its yearly calendar is heavy on programs that address its three components - the Army, its Soldiers and families, and Department of Army civilians and contractors.

Taylor is not surprised about the continuing success of the chapter and its programs. And he is confident that success will continue.

"Every year, we build upon the structure that's already in place from past presidents and past leaders," he said. "We continue to improve upon what they left us. All the tools and all the programs are in place and functioning. My job is to make sure we have the resources necessary to continue, to look for more input to do more things, and to make sure our leadership and volunteers are actively engaged in all aspects of our program. We want to grow. There are a lot of opportunities for AUSA outreach programs."

The success behind the Redstone-Huntsville chapter is the volunteers who continually commit themselves to its programs. Taylor said he is "honored and humbled" to serve as the chapter's leader for the next two years.

"Our volunteers want to be involved. They want to participate. Many of them are retired military and they consider themselves still serving. The most gratifying aspect of our chapter is that everybody is serving as volunteers for the right reason - to support the Soldier and to support the Army," Taylor said. "For me, this is an opportunity to pay back to the Army what the Army has done for me."

Taylor retired from the Army in 2001 as a colonel, with his last assignment as the commander of the 59th Ordnance Brigade at Redstone Arsenal. It was the end of a military career that began 29 years earlier after graduating as a member of the ROTC program at Georgia Tech.

"I was fortunate to be assigned to Redstone Arsenal," Taylor said. "The 59th was absolutely the highlight of my military career. It was an honor to be associated with the professionalism of the schoolhouse and to lead young Soldiers."

After retiring, Taylor took a job in the local defense industry and began volunteering with AUSA, which allowed him to continue to enjoy a role in supporting young Soldiers and their families.

"It is sad to see young Soldiers being relocated from Redstone Arsenal," he said, referring to the transfer of the 59th Ordnance Brigade to Fort Lee, Va., in 2010 as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations.

"AUSA will transition our focus from that group of Soldiers to a wider group of Soldiers that will include the National Guard and Reserve Soldiers in Alabama and Tennessee. We have already been doing more for the National Guard and Reserve components in recent years as they've become more a part of the larger Army family. All along we've attempted to reach out to the entire Army family, not just the young Soldiers, although they are the most recognizable aspect with pictures at ballgames, the Veterans Day parade and various community events."

Although the bulk of membership and activity for the Redstone-Huntsville chapter is in Madison County, the chapter's footprint actually extends up into the five southern counties of Tennessee, east and west to Gadsden, Anniston and Florence, and far south to include Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.

"The challenge that poses to us is to try to reach out to all parts of our area and to see what we can do to help develop satellite chapters," Taylor said. "We are proud of the energy and participation that has grown in our Anniston satellite. We would like to establish other satellite chapters so there is a framework in place for those who want to support the military in the Birmingham and Montgomery areas."

Currently, the chapter is an information source for members outside the chapter's immediate area and the satellite area. But Taylor hopes new satellite chapters will boost AUSA activities throughout the chapter's region.

"The national goal of AUSA is to grow chapters," he said. "We want to start satellite chapters that will eventually have the resources and leadership to stand on their own as chapters. We want to help to ensure their success."

Taylor said his service as the chapter's president, as with other presidents, is actually a four-year commitment, beginning with two years "in training" as the chapter's executive vice president. His two-year term as chapter president began this month.

"I'm most fortunate that my leadership here at Orbital Sciences have been very supportive of my involvement in AUSA activities," he said. "I could not have done this without their support. But there are a lot of companies in town just like Orbital Sciences that commit resources to this chapter. We can never forget to thank companies for their contribution to this chapter."

Taylor wants to build on that corporate membership base during his term. All companies - from defense contractors and construction companies to hotels and fast-food restaurants -- who want to support the military should view AUSA membership as well-worth the financial investment, he said.

"First and foremost, AUSA membership shows that a company supports our Soldiers and is interested in our Army," Taylor said. "Second, corporate membership helps to improve the already tremendous relationship that exists in this community between our military and civilian leadership.

"And third, corporate membership gives a company an opportunity to become more familiar with opportunities with the military. That's an important aspect when you look at the growth of the military community here in Huntsville."

In many ways, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA has worked to encourage the patriotic and pro-Army attitude within the local community. Events such as the Veterans Day Parade, Armed Forces Celebration, Tactical Missile Defense Conference, Operation Christmas Bear, Space and Missile Defense Conference, Redstone Arsenal Retiree Day, Memorial Day Observance, Department of Army Civilian of the Year Award Dinner, Army Birthday Celebration and Blue Star Service Banner programs are sponsored or co-sponsored by AUSA to bring the community into a closer working and living relationship with the Army and the military as a whole.

"I think that AUSA constantly enhances that sensation of support for the military and the relationship with civilians in the community," Taylor said. "Year after year, day in and day out, AUSA certainly fosters that good relationship between the military and the community."

Because of the chapter's various activities, many members are hoping it will achieve a sixth year as AUSA's best chapter in the world. And every year, the pressure to secure that distinction is greater as other chapters work to push the Redstone-Huntsville chapter off the award pedestal. But Taylor does not allow the best chapter distinction to drive his goals for the chapter.

"We've had a great run of success for five years as best chapter in the world in the large chapter category," he said. "The important thing is not that we get the sixth year in a row or the seventh year in a row. What matters is our focus.

"If we keep the focus on the Soldier and the needs of the Army then all else will fall into place, whether we get recognized as best chapter or not. If we get the sixth, then we've done what we're supposed to have done in terms of support to the Army, and its Soldiers and families. Everybody wants to be number one. It's great that we have competed in that and we have today more chapters around the world doing things to support AUSA and the Soldier because of their desire to be number one. But we are not driven by that award or by being number one. All the streamers (awards) don't make a difference if we've lost our focus."

Page last updated Wed July 15th, 2009 at 17:43