What soldiers and civilians are saying about the Association of the United States Army

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Association of the United States Army – in 2010 celebrating its 60th anniversary as the "Voice of the Soldier – Support for the Army" – is the Army’s professional organization.

AUSA offers specialized programs and exhibitions for soldiers of all ranks – active, National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, Department of the Army civilians, retirees, veterans, civilians, military academy and ROTC cadets, family members and the men and women who work in the defense industry.

The Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, held each October in Washington, is the Association’s premier event that focuses on and highlights strengthening the Army’s professional development.

With a record-breaking attendance of over 35,836 attendees, the 2010 Annual Meeting had more than 500 military and industry exhibits occupying three city blocks.

In 2011, AUSA’s exhibits will occupy about 50 percent more space in two additional exhibit halls in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Throughout the three-day Annual Meeting and Exposition, there were 14 contemporary military forums, four family forums, three noncommissioned officer forums and a series of special presentations.

Delivering major addresses at the event were Army Secretary John McHugh; Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff.

Here is what some of the participants, including a Silver Star recipient, recruiter of the year, a state adjutant general and family readiness group leaders are saying about AUSA’s professional development forum and its landpower exhibition.


Sgt. David Hutchinson
U.S. Army Reserve, 420th Engineer Brigade, Bryan, Texas, and Silver Star Recipient, Afghanistan, May 2008
Interviewed at the Army Exhibit at the Annual Meeting and Exposition, he said, "Soldiers ask me about my experiences and what I learned. You have to take training very seriously. Just because you’re a reservist and you’re going into Afghanistan doesn’t mean you’re going to be on a Forward Operating Base out of harm’s way which I found out very quickly.

"So I always harp on the point that you need to pay attention to the training. … It may very well save your life."

Based on his experience in Paktika Province in Afghanistan, he saw the benefits of attending the Annual Meeting in a special way. "This convention gives a chance for the reservist to interact with the active duty soldiers. You can talk and trade ideas. Now that the reservists are in operational force – not a ‘weekend warrior’ anymore – they very may well call you up in a month or two or a year and you’re going to go on deployment – just like I am."


Staff Sgt. Michael Semeja
Army National Guard Recruiter of the Year, Arizona Army National Guard
Speaking as an exhibitor, the NCO said that at the Annual Meeting he is explaining to attendees how basic training has changed to reflect what is happening down range.

"It’s different than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago," and "instead of blind obedience and fear, they teach recruits how to think" because "they are going to have to think on their own overseas when they deploy."

Personally, he found the Annual Meeting professionally rewarding in a number of ways.

"We had a luncheon with the sergeant major of the Army, and the sergeant major of the Afghanistan army who brought us up to date on operations. It’s nice to see how far we’ve come, where the Afghan National Army has come, and to see how much of an impact we’ve had as Army."


Spc. Gloria Toledo
3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)
In a session with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, she learned much about the noncommissioned officer’s role.

"Make sure you take care of your soldiers and the soldiers will take care of you. And, ultimately, it will make the NCOs stronger and the whole team stronger."


Spc. Robert Norrington
3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard)
This is his second Annual Meeting. He admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect when he attended in 2009.

"My NCO said: ‘Here’s a pass, go to AUSA and see what’s there for the future.’"

This year, he had a better idea, but still what he saw on the exhibit floor was eye-opening.

"A lot of changes" over a year. "I like the new body armor that was down [on the exhibit floor]."


Sgt. 1st Class Damon Brown Sr.
Drill Sergeant Leader, U.S. Army Drill Sergeant School, Fort Jackson, S.C.
With 10 years in the Army, he was struck by the opportunities available to attendees at the Annual Meeting.

"It’s amazing to be in the same arena with sergeants major that you look up to for guidance, also the generals, the people who shape the Army; the thinkers, the one’s that project the way they want the Army to go and put out the guidance down to us."

In addition to the professional development opportunities at the Annual Meeting, there is the strong sense of community and participating in an Army reunion.

"I’m a medical soldier and I saw quite a few people that I’ve worked with. I was a drill sergeant at Fort Sam [Houston] before being sent over to the drill sergeant school. I’ve seen quite a bit of my battle buddies and old first sergeants. Matter of fact I saw my drill sergeant when I came to basic training, I recognized him – now he’s a first sergeant."


Sgt. 1st Class Othen Wayne Prock
Drill Sergeant Leader, U.S Army Drill Sergeant School, Fort Jackson, S.C.
"I wish I could have attended more AUSA events. My career has made it almost impossible [starting out in the Navy and enlisting in the Army in 1995]. I would recommend [attending the Annual Meeting].

"I was a slow riser through the ranks because of my prior service – so I just didn’t jump through the ranks [and get the opportunity to participate in events such as the Annual Meeting]."


Sgt. Dustin Armstrong
U.S. Army Combatives School, Fort Benning, Ga. 
"If I get a chance, I’d come again [to the Annual Meeting]. Anything that talks about changes in the Army is important [for soldiers of all ranks]." Even in his five years in the Army, he said, "Everything has changed a lot."


Andra Kai Shaw
Family Readiness Group Leader, Fort Bliss, Texas
As an Army spouse and a mother whose daughter is deployed, she said, "We’re finding our families are having the same issues and challenges as families across the nation especially during the deployment. You want to do a little personal and professional development and that’s all part of the resiliency that the Army talks about."

Looking to the future after attending the Annual Meeting’s family forums, she said, "I’m also dealing with families that are under a little bit of stress and looking forward to that welcome home, I’ll provide a lot of information. My bags are full."

Adding, "Thank God for e-mail; thank God for friends and our family readiness support assistant" in spreading information she gathered from the Annual Meeting.

She said, "I am taking a lot of cards [to stay in touch with other attendees at the family forums]. I will think outside the box."


Mary Cheney
DA civilian 
Family Readiness Program Coordinator, 3rd Infantry Division,  Fort Stewart, Ga.,Military family member

Speaking as the mother of five children and family readiness coordinator, she said that she is taking information that will help her personally and benefit the Fort Stewart community.

"I think it’s a great networking opportunity for the Family Readiness Group leaders to get ideas and meet people from other installations and see how things are done. So I think it’s phenomenal that AUSA does this for the families."

CW5 Gary Nisker
Command Chief Warrant Officer, Army National Guard
"The 2010 Annual Meeting provided warrant officers an opportunity they had not had in the past – a professional development forum of their own.

"I think it’s a whole other set of the Army that is all too often overlooked, 2 percent of the Army, 17 percent of the officer corps."

Warrant officers are "leaders and technicians. They are not generalists and they offer commanders that expertise."

He would like to see the forum remain and grow over time.

"If you were to tell them that, in addition to all of the other things that AUSA has done for our great Army, there will also be a professional development opportunity for the Warrant Officer Corps," that would attract more warrant officers to the Annual Meeting and the Association.


CW3 Tracy Dooley 
Executive Officer, For the Command Chief Warrant Officer, Army National Guard
"This is the first time warrant officers had a [professional development] forum, so now I’m seeing a different perspective [in attending the Annual Meeting]. I think a lot of good information was put out at the briefing. Things that people in the states or different locations don’t get an opportunity to hear."


Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk 
North Carolina Adjutant General
"I’m here to gather information. Walk around, talking with the exhibitors. By attending and doing so, you gain a broader perspective of the bigger picture; appreciate the scope of what the Total Army has to offer, and the tremendous potential that the Army will have for the future warfight.

"Attending AUSA is a unique, professional development opportunity for junior officers and NCOs. Particularly noteworthy is the opportunity to listen to their Army’s senior leadership. With time always being at a premium, AUSA offers a precious opportunity to actually hear from their senior leadership, firsthand, and gain an appreciation for what the future may hold for them."

Sgt. 1st Class Jose Mercado
Executive NCO to the Command Sergeant Major, Army National Guard
"There are great opportunities here [at the forums during the Annual Meeting to develop as a senior NCO]. Professional military education is a key factor in promoting good noncommissioned officers in the Army National Guard. This was a primary subject [in the forum’s break-out sessions]."

Col. Virginia Zoller
Office, Chief of Public Affairs, Department of the Army
"AUSA helps, with its symposiums, the [professional] development of our soldiers. The only time [many] have the opportunity to be exposed to the major commands and what’s the leading edge directly from leadership is when they attend the Annual Meeting.

"With the papers from the symposiums, they routinely write or participate in opportunities that keep professional development and discourse going on throughout the year. [The Annual Meeting] is an important event."


Capt. Nathaniel Garcia 
94th Combat Support Hospital and World Class Athlete Program (400 Meter Hurdle)
As a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete program he is used to competition and big events, but he described the AUSA Annual Meeting as "awesome."

He said. "I think it’s really cool all the things that the Army gets to look at" during the three-day event in Washington.

Lt. Col. Charley W. Smith, USA, Ret.
President, Gen. William C. Westmoreland Chapter, Reno, Nev. 
"The biggest change in the AUSA convention I’ve seen is the greater involvement by the Army senior staff to include the National Guard and the Army Reserve senior staff. More of them are advocating AUSA as not only your professional organization, but also as an organization to enlighten civilians and to get more civilians involved in supporting the military.

"Chapters are vital to their communities such as establishing a special guest house near the VA hospital in Reno and the success of AUSA in supporting soldiers and the Army."

Adding, "Chapters really try to be a part of the community. I go to every military event or function I can. I also sit on the VA’s Women’s Health Advisory Committee. So I have a direct involvement with women veterans. So try to encourage them to be members and to be volunteers within the organization of AUSA, that type of thing."