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The importance of professional organizations

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. (Ret.) Tom Patton
  • Noncommissioned Officer's Association
"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."-- Abraham Lincoln

I have a question for members of the Noncommissioned Officers Association, Air Force Sergeants Association, Warren Top 3, Company Grade Officers Council and Squadron Booster clubs, etc. With all the time you spend at work, when do you find time to get involved in an organization that gives back to the military and local communities? It's easy to say, "I just don't have the time."

As a member of the Noncommissioned Officers Association, I want you to know there are a handful of dedicated active duty members here at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, along with several retired members like myself, who found time to support the men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command and their families.
And we can use your help.

One of the great things about professional organizations like the NCOA is spending time with fellow military members in a social atmosphere while working together to achieve a goal. Membership allows you to make lasting friendships throughout the base, in the community, and in many different organizations. The friends you make are a tremendous help when you need a little support outside of your normal work area.

The NCOA also cultivates leaders. Rank isn't what determines the position you hold. The only thing you require to lead in a professional organization is the respect of your peers, commitment and to demonstrate leadership ability. Professional organizations help you develop and refine your leadership potential independent of your rank or duty position.

The lobbying power you have is a little known benefit of membership, but one of the most important. Many professional organizations have strong lobbying arms in Washington, D.C., which are key to addressing concerns like pay increases, retirement benefits and medical care.

At NCOA national conventions, I've talked to U.S. senators and top enlisted leaders in all branches concerning issues of importance to military members. Without fail, there's always an assistant jotting down your questions to make sure your concerns are not overlooked.

Membership in professional organizations is often how Air Force policy, military policy and benefits change. On the local level, these organizations provide a conduit to your wing leadership to fight for your concerns and ideas.

Your local NCOA chapter was involved in more than 50 base and community related events last year. We helped the Airman and Family Readiness Center with deployment get-togethers. We supported Frontiercade, and donated to Airmen Leadership School graduations, awards and promotion ceremonies. We also worked at numerous fundraisers for cancer, multiple sclerosis and cultural festivals such as the Greek Festival. NCOA volunteers logged more than 5,000 volunteer hours in 2010. We worked at homeless shelters, helped and cheered up our disabled veterans by taking them fishing and bowling and assisted numerous local Boy Scout and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs. We raised more than $20,000 last year to support all these worthy causes, but that wasn't the only payoff. Being involved allows us to touch peoples' lives and make lasting friendships.

I know it's hard to find the time, but when you get involved in a professional organization at the local level, you can improve your community and serve as a positive Air Force role model in the process. Your community needs your help to create a better place for all of us to live.