By Ms. Julia Bobick (USAREC)May 2, 2011
While it was formally launched with three signatures, a few words and a couple of handshakes, the Army's partnership with Kiwanis International is more than a signed memorandum of understanding - it is about collaboration and positive action for the future of the nation.
It's a great opportunity because all three organizations are invested in the same thing: developing leaders for America, said Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command. McDonald, along with Maj. Gen. David L. Mann, commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, signed the partnership agreement with Kiwanis International April 20 at USAREC's Fort Knox, Ky., Headquarters.
"It's an unbelievable fit that we put these organizations together, gathering the synergy from them so that we can help develop the leaders as best we can to help take care of this country, because there's no doubt about it - this country is worth taking care of," McDonald said.
Like the Kiwanis, Mann said the Army feels a deep commitment in giving back to America.
"We're looking forward to partnering with [Kiwanis] as we develop the future leaders of not only the nation, but also of the Army, to achieve the right skills and develop the necessary leadership attributes we all need as we look into the future," Mann said.
Kiwanis International Executive Director Stan D. Soderstrom said as he was preparing that morning for the signing ceremony, he felt very humbled that "those of you who wear this uniform and represent all that uniform stands for think highly enough of us to be our partners. We appreciate that."
Over the past several months, Recruiting Command has been taking a look at its education engagement strategy and identifying the key areas that will allow the Army to establish and sustain connectivity in the community and schools, according to Ward Wood, USAREC director of marketing, education and outreach.
Soderstrom called the partnership "a natural fit," and all three leaders echoed comments on the organizations' common core values, shared sense of purpose and strong desire to improve the strength and future of the nation.
This partnership is just one more illustration of how "we [the Army] take education very seriously. Through our partnership we can expand our reach to a group of students who are steeped in the same values we hold dear and are already on a positive leadership path," said USAREC Deputy Commanding General Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, who's met with Kiwanis leaders both here and at their headquarters in Indianapolis during the partnership planning process. "At the same time, our Soldiers can teach the leadership skills they gained from the Army and mentor future leaders in their communities - whether they choose to serve as Soldiers or citizens, we can help make them stronger leaders."
Kiwanis International, a global community service organization, has been involved in development of youth leaders since 1925, according to John Shertzer, senior director of programs. The organization operates several hands-on service leadership programs for youth, including Key Club and Key Leader programs for high school students and Circle K at the university level. All the programs are sponsored by the local Kiwanis organization, which helps the Army further establish community ties.
"I think we all recognize that identifying, enabling, equipping and engaging the next generation of leaders is essential for this nation's future, and the future of the entire planet," Soderstrom said.
After all the talk about what the organizations can do working hand-in-hand, Soderstrom said the only thing left to do is to "get to work."
Mann said the task now is to ensure Army leaders know and learn about the Kiwanis organizations and leadership programs in their footprints so they can find mutually beneficial ways to get involved at the local level. The command has already identified several opportunities for Soldiers to get involved in Key Leader weekend leadership camps held across the country beginning this month.