Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie W. Spencer, USA, Ret.
Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs
I recently received a great letter from Staff Sgt. Michael D. Harms that was forwarded to me by Col. Randy L. Williams, USA, Ret., president of the Executive Board of our AUSA Kuwait Chapter.
Harms was selected as the Area Support Group – Kuwait Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.
He, along with Sgt. Siedah Rivera, soldier of the year, and their spouses, Hanzel Harms and Anthony Rivera, were the chapter’s guests at the 2010 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition held in October at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The meeting, known as a "Professional Development Forum," focuses on an agenda highlighting speeches, panel discussions and military and family forums that are beneficial to officers, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, soldiers and their civilian counterparts.
When he returned to Kuwait, Harms wrote this letter that appeared in the chapter newsletter and has been edited here for content:
"KUWAIT – As retired service members and civilian volunteers gathered in numbers larger than several brigades to arrange the 2010 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), I travelled anxiously from Kuwait to Washington, D.C.
"Not knowing what to expect, I pestered my garrison sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Melvin Johnson – trying not to annoy him too much – with redundant questions. I was fortunate he tended to humor me rather than become aggravated at my curiosities.
"Upon arrival, I was pleased to be greeted by the charismatic Retired Colonel Randy Williams, president of the AUSA Kuwait Chapter. His attitude and dedication to AUSA and the soldiers could set any naysayers of the Army or support groups straight.
"Our journey throughout the AUSA exposition had us attending events with some of the biggest names in the [Army] such as the secretary of the Army, John McHugh, and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.
"Myself, my wife Hanzel Harms, Sergeant Major Johnson, Nola Maloney, ASG KU’s Soldier of the Year Sergeant [Siedah] Rivera with her husband Anthony and [Colonel Williams] travelled together as the Kuwait Chapter representatives from formal breakfasts and dinners to NCO professional development [forums].
"We were even privileged to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of the Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknowns.
"Within the four-day period of events, our schedule was jam-packed with breakfasts, luncheons, receptions, dinners and ceremonies revealing the vast sea of volunteers within AUSA.
"Too much was offered to list, but all events yielded much value. Sometimes the intangibles are the most important things we come across in our lives. Sure, the events inherently networked our group with influential people. While helpful, my memories of the events do not centralize around that.
"The experience and knowledge I have gained from the very existence of such an event has impacted my wife and I on a scale that was not expected.
"If nothing more can be gained from the experience of an AUSA Annual Meeting, it should be well known that AUSA provides soldier support in more ways than one could ever imagine.
"It is impressive, more like awe-inspiring, to see the forces that join at an AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.
"My wife and I experienced a plethora of emotions from ‘wow factors’ at the latest and greatest technologies in the exposition to emotional silences while remembering our prisoners of war/missing in action at a formal breakfast.
"The events of AUSA combined with the site seeing of the Nation’s Capital made for an interesting mix of education, heritage and traditions. It couldn’t be held in a better place. It couldn’t be done better. It shouldn’t be bypassed by soldiers or supporters of our soldiers.
"Overall, the event has instilled in me more pride in being a soldier and has opened my eyes to see the forces, not typically seen, supporting our war fighters.
"As the ASG KU NCO of the Year, it was truly an honor to attend such an event."
Staff Sgt. Michael D. Harms