One of the things I enjoy most about my work as FRA’s director of Communications is the opportunity I have to meet and interview a wide variety of interesting people. Whether it’s talking with shipmates and Auxiliary members at National Conventions, learning about flight deck operations from the Sailors who do their dangerous work aboard today’s aircraft carriers or combat veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, everyone has a story to tell. It’s truly my privilege to retell these stories to our readers.
Admiral Michelle Howard, the Navy’s first female Vice Chief of Naval Operations, was gracious enough to share her story with FRA Today readers for this month’s feature story, which begins on page 18. She’s been on the cutting edge of many changes for women in today’s military and is the quintessential example of how the opportunities for women in the armed forces have grown over the past few decades. Juxtapose her story with those told by the Coast Guard SPARs featured in the August 2014 issue of the magazine and it’s easy to see just how far women in the military have come.
The types of duty assignments available to females has grown from primarily administrative and nursing duties to include virtually every facet of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as the other military branches. And the number of women serving has grown, too and is predicted to increase dramatically over the next 30 years.
Statistically, women make up nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population (based on 2010 census data) and currently account for about nine percent of all military veterans. Although the number of military veterans is projected to decrease overall, the Department of Veterans Affairs predicts that the percentage of female veterans will increase to more than 16 percent of the overall veteran population by 2043.
Like many military and veteran service organizations, FRA is a cross-section of our nation and the military branches we serve. Since FRA opened its ranks to women in 1970, female shipmates have contributed to our efforts in many ways, including service as branch and regional officers. However, only about 3 percent of FRA’s current membership is female, far below the current veteran population.
As the FRA moves forward to increase our membership base, it’s important to ensure that we don’t exclude this growing pool of prospective shipmates. By opening our recruiting aperture, we cannot only improve the size of our organization, but also enhance its quality by including those with diverse experiences and perspectives. Lauren Armstrong is FRA’s Director of Communications and serves as the Managing Editor of FRA Today. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Return to Table of Contents
Retiring Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made a generous parting shot as he prepared to leave his post. After years of military installations barring organizations like FRA from offering information and services on bases, Hagel’s recent directives (outlined in the article below) should make it a lot easier for FRA shipmates to share the good news about our organization. It’s a safe bet that our engagement on these installations will still need to focus on providing information and services and that blatant recruiting drives will still be prohibited.
FRA has a lot to offer current and former service members and their families. Our legislative advocacy is particularly relevant as DoD and Congress consider major revisions to the military health care and retirement systems. (See page 10 for details.) FRA members and families are eligible for a broad range of scholarships sponsored by the FRA Education Foundation (see page 30) and, as an accredited Veteran Service Organization, FRA can assist as military personnel transition to civilian life.
Hagel’s directive references the importance of “relationships,” echoing discussions at our 2014 National Convention in Corpus Christi and in the January 2015 feature article in FRA Today. I encourage all shipmates and branches to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with personnel on military bases, posts, recruiting stations and other military facilities.
Hagel Initiatives Enable Veteran, Military Support Organizations
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2015 —Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has set policy emphasizing the importance of relationships with veteran and military service organizations, as well as military support nonprofits, through initiatives to give the groups access to service members and their families.
The defense secretary signed two policy memorandums in December directing Defense Department (DoD) leaders to implement standardized procedures to allow veteran, military and military-support nonprofit organizations better access to provide support to troops and military families.
“National Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and Military Service Organizations (MSOs),” Hagel said in one memo, “are a critical component of our overall framework of care for our service members throughout all phases of their military service, but especially their transition to civilian life and veteran status.”
Nonprofit non-federal entities, he said, can be of critical importance to service members throughout their careers, and within the bounds of law and regulation, it’s in the department’s interest to maintain strong and positive relationships with them.
“These memos serve to re-emphasize those privileges granted under the law or flexibilities authorized under current DoD policy,” Hagel said. These initiatives direct immediate implementation of additional measures to facilitate consistent delivery across DoD, he said. The directives, Hagel said, also provide clarity to installation commanders on adjudicating requests for space or services.
In a letter sent to retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, president of the Association of the United States Army, and other nonprofit organizations, the defense secretary laid out six aspects of the initiatives which are designed to remove “unnecessary barriers and inconsistencies” in dealing with these organizations.
Installation commanders will provide available space and associated services on military installations allowing national VSOs and MSOs to provide VA-accredited representation services to transitioning service members.
All requests and decisions on installation access, use of space or logistical support will be made in writing.
Installation commanders are directed to be welcoming and supportive of nonprofit organizations that enhance morale and readiness of the force, and are consistent with mission requirements and security constraints.
Training and education will be provided in regular pre-command, judge advocate and public affairs officer training courses to educate personnel on the authorities and flexibilities associated with procedures and support to both accredited VSOs and MSOs and military support nonprofit organizations.
DoD will use consistent and standard procedures to process requests for installation access with new tools and templates provided to aid in consistent and fair assessment and adjudication of requests for access and space.
Commanders are authorized to use official command communication channels, including Transition Assistance Program materials, to inform service troops of the availability of services and support on the installation provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-supporting nonprofits.
Hagel expressed pride in what he termed a major accomplishment and explained the importance of the directives.
“These directives underscore my belief that events and support provided by VSOs, MSOs and military-support nonprofits can be critically important to the welfare of our service members and families,” he said.
The department must maintain positive relationships with those organizations, Hagel said, to facilitate their delivery of services to military personnel who need them.
Tom Snee is FRA’s National Executive Director and can be reached at NEDFRA@fra.org. Return to Table of Contents