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Members of the National Capital Area Joint Enlisted Council help residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C., play a horse racing game during a small Game Day at the home.

The National Capital Region Joint Enlisted Council is a way for military personnel in the Washington, D.C. area to develop needed skills as Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, Coastguard, National Guard and Reserve personnel. The council allows servicemembers to share common on-the-job experiences, socialize and form a volunteer pool that supports community service in the area.

In an e-mail sent to military personnel in the National Capital Area last November soliciting membership in the nearly two-year-old organization, founder and past president Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Verrett wrote: "Leadership is a fundamental trait within our profession. There are many avenues to exercise your leadership ability on the battlefield as well as in garrison. It is our desire to open up opportunities for all enlisted personnel in the NCR.

"The council is open to all ranks, E-1 to E-9. The upper ranks, E-7 to E-9, do not have any advantage or predisposition to leadership positions. In other words, if an E-4 stands up and wants to lead the council, his or her nomination will be considered on [the] merits."

That's not an empty boast. Shortly after the letter went out, nominations were taken for leadership posts in the new term and a corporal was installed as president.

"At first I was a little worried," said Marine Cpl. Michael T. King. "I've held many leadership positions but I originally applied for vice president. It took some convincing from others."

"I'm only 21 years old, but I try to lead to show the next person who comes along that we're open to their ideas," King added. "In my life as a leader you are in service to those you lead, not the other way around." Verrett said he encourages lower enlisted Soldiers to seek leadership positions. "Even if a position is filled you should always self nominate yourself. Anyone can be president. It's not rank dependent."

Vice president Air Force Master Sgt. Bruce Kimball said he first found out about the organization from an e-mail circulated within NCR. "I thought it was great that it was a team effort unconcerned with rank," he said.

Verrett said the group tries to keep meetings, which are held in the Pentagon, down to an hour so they don't become too time-consuming. Meetings are held during lunchtime to better allow servicemembers to slip away from work. The first 15 minutes of a meeting are dedicated to socializing with members from other services, he said, which is followed by a 10 to 15 minute presentation by a member about issues, cultures or customs unique to their branch of service. This serves as a kind of educational forum to learn about the differences and commonalities of military service.

"Someone might explain why different uniforms are worn at different times of the year," Verrett explained. "The important thing is that we educate each other." He said the council provides a place for mentoring and networking and affords members the opportunity to address the forum and improve public speaking skills and other talents.

The council also hosts guest speakers. At last week's monthly meeting, Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to the group about leadership and the importance of joint service. Verrett said the council unveiled a large banner in the room for Cartwright's appearance, including a quote from the vice chairman: "We fight joint, we fight as a coalition, we fight as a government, not as services."

The group has regularly furnished volunteers for the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. This month alone they're involved in more than 20 events, assisting staff and residents with recreational activities, outings and other projects.

"The people there have given so much to the military and our country that we have to show them we appreciate them," stressed King.

Verrett said the council has an active membership of 50 people but that it has the capacity to pull several hundred volunteers from other organizations because its base is so broad.

"They've been great with the residents," said Amanda Jensema, a recreational therapist at the Armed Forces Retirment Home. "The residents enjoy their company."

"In a perfect world [this] would be an organization that continues to give back," said Kimball.

There are no dues or fees to participate in the National Capital Region Joint Enlisted Council. For more information on the organization, e-mail ncrje.council@pentagon.af.mil.

Page last updated Thu January 28th, 2010 at 16:51