Voting assistance officers gear up for election year
April 13, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Military voting assistance officers and assistants from the Heidelberg, Mannheim, Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart communities packed a second floor classroom in Heidelberg's Community Support Center April 4 to learn the ins and outs of the federal and state voting process.
A representative from the Department of Defense Federal Voting Assistance Program led the two-hour Federal Voting Assistance Program workshop, and U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg Commander Col. Bryan DeCoster kicked off the training with a few words.
"I think this is a very important function that you are performing. This is really how we help shape who the elected officials are and what type of functions we perform within the military.
It's also how we get to have our say in the national arena. I thank all of you for your work in voting assistance. It's a very important mission for all of the Soldiers and families out there across the community," DeCoster said.
Ivor Watson, USAG BW installation voting assistance officer and chief of the military personnel division and director of human resources, along with members of his staff, hosted the training.
"The focus here is to ensure that the unit Voting Assistance Officers know how to better do their job. A lot of them are new and they have not done this before," Watson said.
"This is an additional duty where they are learning how to help Solders and their family members. It also gives them an opportunity to go over some of the type of questions they can expect to be asked and how to get to the right information," Watson said.
"Each unit has voting assistance officers who reach out to their Soldiers, civilians and family members face to face. As the installation voting assistance officer, I assist the units as far as putting on training, going out to community events and providing information for folks who may not be able to get in touch with their voting assistance officer, " he added.
Watson also added that there is definitely more interest in the program right now due to the current election year and he hopes the trend will continue.
First Lt. Abdoul Kane, 57th Air Defense Artillery, said that he was excited to learn more about his new duty. "It's pretty interesting. I've voted in past elections before but I never really saw the whole picture until now. It's good to know and I can relay the information back to my Soldiers," Kane said.
Before the class, the Chicago native had scoured the Internet looking for resources. "Now I have a better idea of what's available and exactly where to go. I can also use this information to help motivate my Soldiers to get out and vote," he said.
To be selected as an Army unit voting assistance officer, Soldiers should be a first lieutenant or sergeant first class or higher.
However, there is no pay grade requirement to serve as an assistant VAO.
Installation Voting Assistance Officers should hold the pay grade of general schedule -12 (civilian) or rank of major (military) or higher.
For information on the federal and state voting process and additional VAO training tools, visit www.FVAP.gov or www.imcom-europe.army.mil/webs/sites/news/voting.html.