Sheehan, whose Marine Corps service included combat tours in Vietnam and in support of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and who has served on MOAA's board since 2012, spoke about his tenure as MOAA's chair in a recent interview:
Q: What efforts are you most proud of?
A: I think MOAA is not about an individual, it's about people. I think what the board can be proud of is, No. 1, getting the financial state of affairs for MOAA in order. No. 2 is the transformation of MOAA from an analog organization to a digital organization. The board and the staff at MOAA is mostly responsible for that.
As a result of the work the board and the staff has done, we've basically gone to a paperless organization. Also, our outreach to our membership is now more aligned to a 21st-century organization than to an organization from the 1960s and 1970s.
Q: What are some of your most memorable moments leading MOAA's board?
A: I think the one thing that stands out most obviously is the Storming sessions the MOAA membership does every year on the Hill. It is clearly a demonstration of the membership's commitment to the mission of MOAA and also to how serious our members take their responsibility to look after those who do not have a voice in Washington, D.C.
I think the results of what they did in terms of the recent pay raise for the troops is clearly a major achievement. I think MOAA is an organization that should take a lot of credit for that effort.
Q: When you finished your service in the Marine Corps, how did you stay connected with currently serving Marines and other servicemembers? How did you keep a pulse on things that are important to them?
A: Just by talking to them. You always maintain a relationship with people. When I joined Bechtel Corp., we hired a number of military members because we always believed that transition is difficult. If they have somebody inside the corporation to help them, it always works out better.
Q: What message do you have for currently serving and newly transitioning servicemembers who are thinking of joining MOAA?
A: MOAA is a great organization. There is a long history of service and advocacy success. And if you enjoyed your time in the military serving others and serving the country, then MOAA is the next logical step for them to take to continue to serve.
Q: What was some advice you received early in your career that you still draw from today?
A: Look after the people that work for you and they will look after you.
Q: What is some advice you have for young officers?
A: The same thing - look after the people you're paid to protect.
Q: How would advocacy efforts be different for military officers if MOAA didn't exist?
A: They wouldn't have a voice in Congress. I think there is real value in numbers, as demonstrated by our annual visit to the Hill. The reason we get so many awards from different organizations is they recognize MOAA can mobilize 350,000 people when it comes to an issue.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: MOAA is not about one individual. MOAA is a team of people starting with the board, the president and CEO, and the staff. The success of MOAA rests with all those people.