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MOAA Storms the Hill 2014

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April 7, 2014

MOAA is Storming the Hill again — and you can follow along from home with our event-by-event coverage, and take action on issues affecting the military community. 

 
 

Brig. Gen. Ivan Denton, ARNG, Addresses to MOAA Council Leaders

2014 Storming - Brig Gen Ivan Denton 
Brig. Gen. Ivan E. Denton, ARNG, director of Manpower and Personnel, National Guard Bureau addressed MOAA leaders at the annual Council Presidents' Seminar luncheon. Photo by Steve Barrett. 

 

MOAA treated Council Presidents’ Seminar participants and their spouses to a special keynote speaker during a seminar luncheon, held April 10 in the Presidential Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Old Town in Alexandria, Va. 

Gen. John Tilelli Jr., USA (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors, introduced speaker Brig. Gen. Ivan E. Denton, ARNG, director of Manpower and Personnel, National Guard Bureau.

Denton highlighted the long-term mission of the Guard, focusing on its roles in warfighting, protecting in the homeland, and cultivating global partnerships. In the near-term, Denton said the Guard is working to eliminate sexual assault and harassment, prevent servicemember suicides, and ensure leadership is fiscally responsible.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, the Guard has become an active reserve. Looking to the future as the conflict in Afghanistan winds down, Denton sees no reason for the Guard to regress to its pre-9/11 status as a truly reserve component.

“I don’t know what percent immobile the Guard will get,” said Denton, “but it can’t be zero.”

Closing his speech with a question-and-answer period, Denton, a MOAA member, touched on why he finds value in his membership. For him, the most important benefit was the MOAA Scholarship Fund.

“I wanted my kids to have skin in the game for college,” Denton said.

The MOAA Scholarship Fund, which he called a “powerful outreach program,” allowed his oldest two children to attend schools they otherwise might not have been able to.

Denton served four years on active duty as an infantry officer from 1986 to 1990, including two demilitarized zone tours between North Korea and South Korea. He also served in Operation Just Cause with the 75th Ranger Regiment. His Ranger Rifle Platoon conducted a combat parachute assault onto the international airport in Panama.

Denton left active duty in 1990 and rejoined the Indiana Army National Guard. He has served in major Army National Guard operational events, including the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Joint Readiness Training Center rotation at Fort Polk, La., in 2000; the 38th Division Warfighter exercise at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in 2001; and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He commanded 1-293rd Infantry, which was the first reserve component infantry battalion to be forwardly deployed into a combat theater since the Korean War. He also commanded the 219th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, which was the last major Indiana Army National Guard rotation in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.  

Council Presidents’ Seminar Allows MOAA Leaders to Build on their Success

 2014 Storming - Council Presidents Seminar 
Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), director, MOAA Council and Chapter Affairs led the exchange of ideas and resources at the 2014 Council Presidents' Seminar. Photo by Steve Barrett. 

 

On April 10, council leaders from across the country gathered to learn about new initiatives at national MOAA and exchange ideas and share best practices at the association’s 2013 Council Presidents’ Seminar, held at the Crowne Plaza Old Town in Alexandria, Va. 

Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), director, MOAA Council and Chapter Affairs, and Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), MOAA president, opened the daylong event with a working breakfast, where they discussed with leaders the importance of recruiting new chapter members to keep the chapter system strong and to make a difference on the Hill and in local communities.

Following the working breakfast, leaders convened for the first of the day’s general sessions, during which members of MOAA staff outlined the association’s goals.

Col. Gary Fredricks, USAF (Ret), chair of MOAA’s Council and Chapter Affairs Committee, opened the first general session by introducing Gen. John Tilelli Jr., USA (Ret), chair of MOAA's board of directors, who welcomed attendees and thanked them for going above and beyond to support the military community.

Kathy Partain, director, MOAA Membership and Marketing, took the podium to note MOAA’s ongoing and upcoming initiatives. She highlighted membership trends in the national association, recruiting and marketing challenges, the importance of recruiting a new set of younger members into chapters and the association, and outreach initiatives nationwide.

To close out the session, Capt. Jim Carman, USN (Ret), director. MOAA Transition Center, updated seminar participants about veteran unemployment trends. He also covered the three main areas -- career-management, benefits information, and veterans’ claims assistance -- in which the Transition Center can assist servicemembers and their spouses.

The second general session of the morning featured a brief by Patricia Bergquist of the Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee, who stressed the importance of having an auxiliary liaison appointed in each chapter and cited ways these members can provide added value to the chapter system.

The session ended with the presentation of the 2013 Col. Marvin J. Harris Communications Award to contest winners. Ryan was on hand to present the awards to MOAA chapter members who proved to be great communicators in at least one of the following categories — print newsletter, e-newsletter, website, best legislative coverage — print, best legislative coverage — website, best recruiting brochure, and unique communication.

In the afternoon’s general sessions, Wright told participants about national MOAA initiatives to help keep the chapter system a success. He updated attendees about refinements that have been made to the Chapter Recruiting 2014, a program intended to focus solely on helping chapters recruit new chapter members, after listening to feedback from council and chapter leaders. He also noted MOAA created advertisements chapters can use in the local news outlets to teach members of their communities about MOAA and let potential chapter members know there’s a MOAA affiliate in their area.

Attendees finished the seminar with a discussion of chapter-management and recruiting techniques. As a result of the discussions, attendees gained many ideas to help keep their councils and chapters going in the right direction.  

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte Addresses MOAA Council Leaders

 
 
 2014 Storming - Kelly Ayotte at council president's dinner 
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) addressed a crowd of MOAA leaders from across the country on the importance of their work protecting military pay and benefits. Photo by Steve Barrett. 

 

On Wednesday, April 9, MOAA council presidents and their spouses gathered with national association staff and board members in the Presidential Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Old Town in Alexandria, Va., for the Council Presidents’ Dinner, featuring keynote speaker New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). 

Before dinner was served, Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr., USA (Ret), chair of MOAA’s board of directors, thanked the 100-plus attendees who had taken to Capitol Hill earlier that day to lobby their congressional representatives on issues like sustaining pay and benefits and rejecting disproportional TRICARE fees, which are important to the military community.

Tilelli welcomed Ayotte to the podium. Ayotte, he said, led the recent fight to restore the 1-percent COLA cut for working-age military retirees. But, according to Ayotte, she had help.

“I believe the restoring of these benefits was MOAA at its best.” Ayotte said. “The data MOAA put together was critical to this debate … to show Congress why this was not a minor cut. MOAA had a huge voice, and Congress listened to you.”

Ayotte is no stranger to the military lifestyle; her husband is a retired Air National Guard lieutenant colonel who flew combat missions in an A-10 Warthog in Iraq. She understands how important it is for military families to receive the care and support they have earned through service.

Acknowledging her personal experience when her husband was deployed, Ayotte understands firsthand the struggles military families endure, and she works hard to make sure these military families will continue to receive the benefits and pay they earned from their service.

“Men and women in uniform can’t be focused on their job to defend our nation when their families aren’t taken care of back home,” Ayotte said.

To ensure these families are taken care of, according to Ayotte, it is imperative groups like MOAA continue their campaigns to educate the 99-percent of U.S. citizens, including those in Congress, about the sacrifices made by the 1-percent that chooses to serve.

Looking to the future, Ayotte hoped members of Congress and the administration would pay closer attention to data before making decisions so they would see defense spending is not spiraling out of control, as many think.

“Defense spending as the problem is a myth,” Ayotte said. “If we keep heading down this fiscal path, by 2020, the U.S. will spend more on interest in the national debt than on national defense.”

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Ayotte is focused on supporting servicemembers and their families by highlighting the value of military facilities and military readiness. Recently, she backed Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) Hire More Heroes Act (S. 2190), legislation aimed at incentivizing companies to hire more veterans by providing small businesses some relief from the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Ayotte also has been a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s call for another round of base realignments and closures. 

MOAA Leaders Storm the Hill 

 2014 Storming - Adm Ryan storming 
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) meets with MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, USN (Ret) and Col. Dale Ellenburg, USA (Ret) to discuss MOAA's legislative priorities. Photo by Steve Barrett.  

 

MOAA council and chapter presidents from all 50 states, accompanied by members of the national board of directors and headquarters staff, plus members of MOAA’s Currently Serving Advisory Council, Currently Serving Spouse Advisory Council, and Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee stormed Capitol Hill April 9 and visited nearly all 535 representatives and senators in support of key legislative priorities. 

The stormers met with their legislators to discuss key military personnel issues that affect the stability of the all-volunteer force and well-being of military families.

Specifically, MOAA stormers asked for legislative support to:

  • sustain military pay and benefits; 
  • reject disproportional TRICARE fee increases that shift costs onto beneficiaries while reducing access; 
  • eliminate harmful sequestration cuts, which threaten national security; and 
  • address remaining inequities for disabled retirees, survivors, and recalled Guard and Reserve personnel. 

The Hill-stormers’ personal efforts were buttressed by MOAA-sponsored full-page ads in The Hill and Politico newspapers on Wednesday.

We’re also gratified at members’ response to the alert we sent last Friday asking you to support this effort by emailing your legislators. You sent nearly 15,000 messages to Capitol Hill, and many legislators and staffers referenced the messages during their meetings with the MOAA stormers.
 

Also that day, MOAA Director of Government Relations Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), representing The Military Coalition, testified before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee against the personnel and health care cuts in the FY 2015 budget request.

“While debt reduction is a national priority, we believe that such a disproportional share of this burden must not be imposed on the Pentagon and especially on the backs of military members and families,” Hayden said.

Between the FY 2014 and FY 2015 pay caps, the proposed Basic Allowance for Housing reductions, the planned reductions in commissary savings, and new health care fees, an E-5’s family of four would experience a loss of nearly $5,000 in purchasing power annually; an O-3’s family of four would experience a loss of nearly $6,000, according to Hayden.

“These budget proposals would be major steps backward toward repeating the insidious measures that led to retention and readiness problems in the past and would undo the needed compensation improvements since 2000 Congress put in place,” he said.

To learn more about this year’s Storming the Hill issues, check out the fact sheets stormers left behind for their legislators.

2014 Col. Arthur T. Marix Awards 

2014 Storming- Rep Tim Walz and Gen Tilelli at Marix Awards 
Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) receives the Marix Congressional Leadership Award from Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr., USA (Ret). (Photo by Steve Barrett.) 

 

MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), and chair of MOAA's board of directors Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr., USA (Ret), presented five supporters of the defense community with the association's highest awards Tuesday night, kicking off the Storming the Hill legislative blitz.  

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) accepted the Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award for their leadership on a wide range of issues across the uniformed services community.

Sanders reflected on bipartisan legislative successes in the past year and the ever-persistent need to support the nation's veterans.

“You can disagree about war – that's called American democracy – but you never blame the men and women who put their lives on the line,” he said. “As a nation I think we should be proud of the many ways we have learned that lesson. We were divided in Vietnam, and the men and women who served in that war who came home did not get the respect that they were entitled to.

“We were divided about war in Iraq, yet we came together as a nation to stand behind the men and women who served, and we should be proud of that transformation of our political culture.”

Going forward, Sanders added, the nation must continue to support veterans. “It is not about the deployments and send-offs, it what happens to that man or woman 50 years later,” he said.

Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, has made improving the care for veterans a top priority. He accepted his award, saying he recognized it was not “an attaboy pat on the back” but a marching order to continue.

Walz galvanized the crowd, reminding MOAA members their voices as real constituents matter, and he backs them. “The only politics is 'get it right,'” he said. “Things don't happen out of this deep intrigue, this House of Cards. It's out of ignorance.”

MOAA's Distinguished Service Award, presented to individuals or organizations that are not members of Congress but have been consistently strong supporters of the national defense and the uniformed services community, went to Safeway Inc. and APi Group Inc., represented by Brian Baer and Lee R. Anderson Sr., respectively.

Having recognized the quality talent of returning veterans and guardmembers and Reservists, Safeway not only hires veterans and servicemembers but also offers them a 41-week intensive course (but not military-intense, notes Baer) to develop their leadership and management skills. The supermarket chain also has hired 1,300 veterans in the past year.

Baer said he didn't share the honor of having served the country, as the other awardees and most of the audience had, but he was deeply honored to be present. “In 60 to 90 minutes my appreciation went up three notches,” he said. “I will accept this tonight, but this is a call to redouble our efforts.”

Lee R. Anderson Sr., chair of the board of APi Group Inc., a Minnesota-based $2 billion parent country of subcontracting companies, has helped push APi beyond veterans hiring initiatives, fairs, and mentoring to hiring veterans exclusively.

“I'm tired of talking about hiring veterans and not seeing the kinds of results I want to see,” he said.

Among the nation's veterans he's found exceptional talent.

“HR people, put the job descriptions away,” he said. “You're not going to find the next Douglas MacArthur. You need to hire people who come up to you and say, 'I need a job. I'll do anything. I'll train. I'll relocate.'”

Steve Robertson, staff director of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, delivered compelling personal testimony about his unwavering support of the military community in his acceptance of the Col. Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award. He outlined his family military history, from his World War I-blinded grandfather to his grateful business-owning veteran father, himself, and his son. He said he was both humbled and honored to receive an award named for a personal friend and tireless champion of military issues.

“I know when MOAA comes knocking at my door, they've identified a problem but they're there with a realistic solution,” he said.

The Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award and Col. Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Achievement Award both are named for significant former MOAA staffers. Marix founded MOAA and served as its first president.