posted on July 01, 2010 00:05
July 2010 Navy
by CAPT James M. Diehl, USNR (Ret)
Changing our Association’s name to AUSN gave us a new beginning. Our mission – serve all members of the Navy community and support the needs of the Navy – seems universally accepted. But, we lost our identity as a culturally cohesive group in the process. We are no longer a group of Navy Reserve officers with common history, goals, and experiences. We now need to create a new identity that allows us to form together as individuals committed to our common mission.
Washington, DC, is a city of almost unlimited Navy interest opportunities. But, we have been painfully reminded in every activity that we have supported and in every event that we host that we are starting from our new zero-based identity. For example, what is our culture? Whom do you expect to see at each event? Why do you want to come to an AUSN event or look forward to seeing other AUSN members when you do come?
More important and to the point: What will motivate each of us, and a lot more of us, to contribute some of our scarce, hard-earned resources each year to support the continuation of AUSN’s mission?
The recent Navy Now Forum brought in four star Admiral Mark Fitzgerald to talk to us about his multiple areas of responsibility in Africa and Europe. We enjoyed friendship and an excellent lunch with 100 people who share our sense of mission. But, if you try to recruit 100 people to attend a midday luncheon for $38 each, and these people have no common bond or heritage beyond our shared Navy mission, you will quickly identify with our challenge. Why would you want to attend?
The AUSN Inaugural Golf Tournament at Joint Base Andrews East Course was flawlessly organized and conducted by our own Command Master Chief Jerry Featherstone and tournament director Captain J.J. Parker with much help from our small AUSN staff. It brought together 72 golfers committed to our mission, to golf, share lunch, and for many to share a round of golf with Lavar Arrington, the NFL’s number two overall draft when he was picked by the Washington Redskins. Lavar’s father, Mark, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, also joined our celebration.
But, try to recruit 72 golfers based on their commitment to the AUSN mission. This is hard, trust us! For the most part, AUSN events execute flawlessly – the Navy Reserve Birthday, Capitol Hill Reception, RADM Coane briefing Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer on AUSN’s effort to secure earned medical benefits for our service members. Even our legislative participation on behalf of our members and our strategic planning events seem to execute superbly and get rave reviews.
But how does any of this hard earned success lead us toward an identity? I don’t believe that it does.
Our magazine, Navy, is well respected. Web 2.0 is here to stay, and Friends of the Navy have provided a virtual socialization medium. But, none of these substitute for person-to-person contact built around a sense of shared identity. We need your money to sustain our organization and continue to develop success in our mission. You will demand a return on your investment – on both national and local levels – to choose AUSN over other alternatives. What can you offer to AUSN beyond our Web 2.0 presence that can be inexpensively maintained on an Internet connection?
If this is a hard problem in the national capital area, it may be even harder in the many areas with less Navy presence and visibility.
On a positive note, it may become easier for us to gain the interest of organizational sponsors because of our new, broad and inclusive Navy mission. It is hard for an organization loyal to the Navy not to share the AUSN sense of mission. But, even those in organizations attracted to AUSN remind us that we need to be built to service around the individual. And we cannot do this without a shared sense of identity.
What can you do to create AUSN’s identity and how will you do it? We do not have a lot of time to solve this challenge. I would like to hear your thoughts and suggestions.