By Kari Hawkins (The Redstone Rocket)August 10, 2012
A combination of supportive corporate members, loads of dedicated member volunteers, outstanding events and a patriotic community have, once again, put the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army on top.
On top, that is, as the 2012 best AUSA chapter in the world.
Success has been part of the chapter's day-to-day operations for several years as its members have provided a plethora of events, activities and programs in support of active duty and Reserve Soldiers, Army civilians, retirees and their families. The chapter is also involved in community events that gain public awareness of the Army and its mission. It has won the best chapter every year from 2004 through 2008, and then again in 2010, 2011 and this year.
"The more activities you do and the more reports you submit to national help your chapter earn points towards this honor," chapter president Paul Elliott said.
"But we don't do these things to win an award. We do things to take care of the Army and Soldiers, DA civilians, retirees and their families. It mounts up to us doing all these activities that we get credit for at national. At the beginning of the year, it was not our goal to be chapter of the year. Our goal is always to support the Army."
The Redstone-Huntsville Chapter will receive the best chapter of the year award at AUSA's annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22-24. It will also receive top honors in several categories, with each represented by an activity streamer added to the local chapter's flag.
"We will be receiving activity streamers for everything from the support we give our veterans to our Army history events to our interaction with elected officials," Elliott said. "We are very active in the resolutions process."
Every year, AUSA presents resolutions to Congress and lobbies for those resolutions on behalf of the Army. For the past 10 years, the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter has had a representative on the AUSA National Resolutions Committee and, as a consequence, many of the resolutions presented and passed at the national level originate with the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter.
"We try to represent the needs of the commands in our chapter," Elliott said. "Our chapter is influential on a national basis."
But that is only one example of the depth of experience and commitment that the chapter's volunteers bring to its activities, and how they make a difference in the local chapter's track record at the national level.
"As a chapter, it's all a team effort. It takes a team effort to do all that we do," he said. "Many of our volunteers have been with this chapter for years and their experience benefits us and our programs. We have great, dedicated volunteers, board members and general membership, a supportive corporate membership and a supportive community.
"Our volunteers do everything from planning events, to working on the water brigade at the Concert in the Park (during Armed Forces Celebration Week) to passing out flags at the Veterans Day Parade."
Besides such annual events as the Army birthday celebration, the Huntsville Stars and Huntsville Havoc military appreciation nights, DA Civilian of the Year Award, Tactical Missile Symposium, high school and college ROTC awards, the Soldier/NCO of the Year and the 1st Sgt. John Ordway Award, Elliott said there were two new chapter-sponsored activities that really stood out in the 2012 chapter year.
The first -- the Department of the Army Civilian Summit -- addressed the needs of the growing DA civilian population at Redstone Arsenal. The first ever event featured presentations from the Arsenal's civilian leadership and offered continuing education credit to those who attended. The event will be offered again next year in conjunction with the Defense Acquisition University.
"We value our Department of the Army civilian membership and the summit was part of our outreach to them," Elliott said.
The second event was the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Tournament that was part of this year's annual Armed Forces Celebration Week. The tournament brought the national wounded warrior softball team to Huntsville for three patriotic games that filled the Sportsplex with cheering fans.
The local chapter also provides support for military-focused events sponsored by other local organizations, such as Operation Christmas Bear, the weeklong Veterans Day activities and Armed Forces Celebration Week. This past year, several of the chapter's members were involved in planning the opening ceremony for the Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Memorial.
"We try to fit in with community events and provide support where it's needed," Elliott said.
In 2012, the chapter also established its second satellite chapter in Russellville. The Redstone-Huntsville Chapter, which includes all of North Alabama, has 2,600 members and 300 corporate members.
"We want to continue to build our satellite chapters to make it easier for us to reach out to retirees, civilians and the Reserve component," Elliott said.
Likewise, the chapter wants to continue to build and diversify its individual and corporate memberships.
"Not all of our corporate members are defense contractors," said Kris McBride, the chapter's executive vice president. "We have all kinds of business members who want to support our Army and Redstone Arsenal."
That support grows as AUSA works to tell the Army story.
"The purpose and mission of AUSA is to support Soldiers and family members," vice president of special events John Wright said. "But one of the tasks of AUSA is to keep in the community the message that our Soldiers, families and DA civilians need our support."
The chapter is glad to receive the top chapter award in what it considers a transition year.
"With the move of the Ordnance Munitions and Electronic Maintenance School from Redstone, we have lost our large Soldier base," Wright said. "But we have shifted our outreach to concentrate more on the Reserve component and the DA civilians who are such a big part of this community. That's where we really see our base membership growing."
And that's where they see the Redstone-Huntsville Chapter of AUSA continuing to make a winning difference.