By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffFebruary 12, 2009
As individual memberships in the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army grow close to the 3,000 mark, the organization is trying different things to expand its services, events and capabilities to both its members, and the Soldiers and military families it serves.
One added event for 2009 - the 50th anniversary of AUSA worldwide -- was the chapter's first-ever general membership meeting, held Feb. 3 at the Veterans Memorial Museum.
"Our newer members have asked me many times 'When are we meeting'' We are so busy doing the things that we do in support of our Soldiers and the Arsenal and the great people in this community, that we don't really have a meeting where we talk about what we are doing as a chapter," said Mike Howell, the local chapter president.
At the meeting, members were given a rundown of the events AUSA holds every year and of the special activities planned for 2009. Howell's "State of the Chapter" address included basic information and insight into the chapter's operations.
Though headquartered in Huntsville, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA actually covers an area that extends into Lawrence, Giles and Franklin counties of Tennessee and continues south to Montgomery. To better serve the area, the chapter has established satellite chapters in Anniston, and with the ROTC program at the University of North Alabama and with the ROTC program representing Alabama A&M University, University of Alabama-Huntsville and Athens State University.
Membership in AUSA is open to all military and former military and DoD civilians and concerned citizens, and includes defense contractors and private sector companies and businesses that support Army communities. For the Redstone-Huntsville chapter, corporate members run the gamut from large defense contractors such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin to smaller service businesses such as Techmasters and Crestwood Medical Center. There are more than 300 corporate members of the local chapter and nearly 3,000 individual members.
Through AUSA, these corporations and individuals work together to support one target audience - the Soldier. But that audience includes active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers as well as Army civilians, retirees and family members.
"We thank you all for being members. We thank especially our 300 corporate members," Howell told the membership."Because of you, we're keeping the pace of setting the standards for all AUSA in chapter activities."
The new year for AUSA actually begins in June with the Army's birthday, which the local chapter celebrates with a dinner at the Officers and Civilians Club (scheduled this year for June 9). The dinner includes young Soldiers and senior executive Soldiers serving at Redstone Arsenal, and National Guard and Reserve Soldiers as well as recipients of the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Award and the local AUSA membership.
"That really gets us kicked off for the year," Howell said.
The birthday dinner is followed the next week with the community's Armed Forces Celebration Week, set this year for June 13-19, and co-sponsored by the AUSA chapter. This year, AUSA will also sponsor the Salute Dinner with guest speaker Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command and previous commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq.
Other highlights of the year include the Department of the Army Civilian of the Year Dinner, Veterans Day Weekend with the annual AUSA-sponsored parade, Operation Christmas Bear, Santa's Village Military Night, the Tactical Missile Conference, numerous JROTC and ROTC ceremonies, Army National Guard Birthday Celebration, Bosses Breakfast and the national annual AUSA meeting in Washington, D.C., in October.
"We've been named best chapter five years in a row. But we want to go for a six-pack at the annual meeting," Howell said. "We want six years in a row ... Our chapter is known for the Hooah tent at the annual meeting. This year we want to include AMC (Army Materiel Command) and SMDC (Space and Missile Defense Command) headquarters in that tent. It's really a rockin' event."
The chapter hosts numerous other events throughout the year, providing plenty of opportunities for its members to volunteer and participate in activities. One special event that will need the support of many volunteers is the chapter's hosting of the 3rd Region AUSA Annual Meeting and Army Ball, set for April 1-4. The event will attract members of AUSA from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Panama, Puerto Rico and throughout Alabama to Huntsville.
Howell said the annual meeting is significant for the entire AUSA organization because of the size of the region.
"When you look at it from a national AUSA perspective, the 3rd Region has a third of the total AUSA membership," he said.
During the 3rd Region's annual meeting dinner, the Robert F. Cocklin Award, recognizing an individual who has made significant contributions to the Army and the nation, will be presented to Sen. Jeff Sessions. Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of the Army Materiel Command, is scheduled to be the dinner's guest speaker; and other guests include retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, former Army chief of staff, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, and currently AUSA's president and chief operating officer. As part of AUSA's 50th anniversary, the event will also honor all past chapter presidents.
"The folks active in AUSA in the 3rd Region still talk about coming to Huntsville 10 years ago for the conference. We really set the standard then," Howell said. "Now, we're going to kick it up a notch."
For more information on the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA or to join the organization, check out its website at www.ausaredstone.org.