AUSA Fort Rucker-Wiregrass Chapter President Col. (ret.) Mark Jones spoke about the importance of the organization and the chapter activities during the annual AUSA General Membership Luncheon held at the Daleville Cultural and Convention Center on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Jones first spoke about the AUSA annual meeting and exposition in Washington D.C. He said 33,000 people from 80 foreign countries attended the event.
During the national conference, he said the Fort Rucker-Wiregrass Chapter of AUSA received 11 streamer awards at the Third Region Breakfast.
"I will tell you that the three that mean the most to me (are) Superior Chapter, Merit Chapter and, the one that absolutely means the most to me, Community Partner Support," he said. "We would not have been able to do this, get ourselves in this little bitty corner of Alabama back on the map with national without your support. I want to thank you very, very much."
Jones also introduced the leadership of the local chapter. He recognized First Vice President Doug Wynn, Vice President of Fundraising Ingrid Strange, Executive Secretary Tanya Hatley, Treasurer Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Sam Macmaster, Vice President of NCO and Soldier Affairs Command Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Otis Smith, Vice President of Public Relations LeeAnn Capps, Vice President of Young Professionals Kurt Kline Jr. and Vice President of Membership Mike Schmitz.
"These are people who volunteer their time to take care of this association, Fort Rucker and our National Guard and reserve soldiers throughout the area," he said.
Jones said many people have heard of AUSA, but many do not know what the organization does.
"I got to thinking about it, and I said, 'We have got to figure out a better way to get the word out to our local communities,'" he said. "They do dearly love (Fort Rucker).
"In short, the Association of the United States Army is the only non-profit, educational, professional development association that supports America's whole Army."
He said the organization is "a voice" and provides "support for the soldier." He said other organizations are only able to support sections, or branches, of the Army, AUSA focuses on the Army as a whole.
"The chapter leadership fully understand that we must do a better job at getting the word out and staying connected to the communities with the Wiregrass that support Fort Rucker, the mission of the Aviation Center of Excellence, the tenant organizations assigned to Fort Rucker and our National Guard and Army reservists in the area," he said. "We are ready, at any time, to speak to your city councils, chambers of commerce, veterans organizations, civic organizations, church committees and any others who would like to know what we're doing for soldiers and families throughout the Wiregrass."
Jones also spoke about the growing national membership of the organization, which helps the Army at the congressional level.
"AUSA has 123 chapters in nine regions worldwide, supporting our members and their communities," he said. "Wherever you go, AUSA is there.
"In the last two years, AUSA membership has grown from just under 70,000 members to over 132,000 members."
He said an increase in membership gives the organization's national leadership the support to speak with congressional representatives on behalf of the Army.
He said AUSA works to inform Congress about the needs of the Army, especially to try to affect change in funding from the government that has been "erratic" and "unpredictable" in the past.&