Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, USA (Ret), who was sworn in as MOAA’s new chairman of the board at the association’s virtual annual meeting in October, said he’s ready to lead MOAA’s 350,000 members to the Hill to advocate for health care protection and diversity through the ranks, among other important issues.
The pandemic might have challenged organizations in carrying out their missions, but just as Sharp navigated challenges during his time in Korea, on the Joint Staff, and in numerous Army and Joint assignments, he will lead MOAA from a position of personal experience and success.
“This gives me an opportunity in a leadership role to hopefully help steer and improve and be able to advocate for all of our active, retired, and former uniformed services, including Active, Reserve, National Guard military; USCG; NOAA; and USPHS servicemembers and their families,” Sharp said.
Here, he discusses his vision for MOAA as he begins his first year as chairman.
Q. What goals would you like to achieve during your two years?
A. Advocacy: We’ve really focused on getting to the Hill and being able to advocate for the earned benefits of servicemembers. That includes many benefits; however, medical care and benefits for active duty, retirees, and their families are currently at the top of the list.
And we will continue to tackle other issues, such as making sure pay raises stay in line with civilian counterparts.
We have had a lot of success in the past to get legislation passed supporting our services, and I’m confident we can continue to really help maintain and improve benefits.
[RELATED: Latest Advocacy News From MOAA]
Membership: I believe we can increase membership if we make sure people understand what we’re doing and value what we’re doing. Getting the word out to our eligible population on who we are and how we advocate for them will prove MOAA is a great value and worthy of their membership.
Member services: Having programs that are valued and used by our members is critical in maintaining and growing membership. Programs such as transition services, a member support hotline, spouse programs, advocacy, scholarships, and insurance opportunities are some of the key services we look to continue and expand.
Chapters: We need to continue to maintain the number of chapters or maybe look at chapters in a different way. I think the desire for members, especially younger members, to join physical chapters has been reduced over the last couple of decades. On the other hand, I think there’s more desire and willingness than ever to participate in virtual chapters, where the focus is on communities of interest, like military nurses; or issues; or geographic areas.
[RELATED: MOAA's Council and Chapter Resources]
Finance and organizational capacity: MOAA is financially and organizationally strong. Our goal is to continue to strengthen our organizational capacity and explore new ideas for revenue.
Left, then-Gen. Sharp joins President George W. Bush at the Yongsan garrison in South Korea in 2008. Right, Sharp walks with President Barack Obama to Air Force One as Obama leaves South Korea from Osan Air Base in 2009. (Left by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images; right by Lee Young-Ho/Pool/Getty Images)
Scholarship Fund and the MOAA Foundation: We will continue to look at scholarships to see how we can we give out more grants and interest-free loans. We want to use the money that people have generously donated to the Scholarship Fund for the largest number of deserving students as possible.
We’re also working very hard to increase donations for the MOAA Foundation. This foundation helps all in the military regardless of rank. One example: We’ve been collecting donations for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which helps provide emergency financial assistance for those who are struggling.
[DONATE NOW: MOAA's COVID-19 Relief Fund]
Q. Do you think health care will continue to be an area of focus for MOAA? If so, why?
A. Yes, I do. I think this will be a continuing battle, regardless of who wins the next election, so it’s not a partisan thing in my mind.
It will be a continual battle of people looking at how to reduce costs, but at the same time, how to maintain and improve the quality and availability of care. There’s just so many different aspects of that, which is why I think the health care focus will continue for at least my entire time as chairman and probably longer.
Q. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges for MOAA moving forward?
A. I think the biggest challenges are maintaining and growing membership and increasing revenue opportunities. We are in pretty good shape right now, but we must continue to be successful advocating for benefits and instituting programs and services that make people want to join and continue being members.
Q. In your view, how can MOAA membership benefit military officers of all ages?
A. The benefit of joining MOAA is that it helps you at different stages in your life. Younger folks are focused on pay, health care, and spouse programs. People who are just getting out of the military are thinking about transitioning to a second career, retirement pay, and medical benefits. I’m very proud of what we do to help people as they transition out of the military — from getting their résumé right to getting a job.
Retirees are focused mostly on medical benefits and advocating for the next generation of servicemembers. Across all age groups, MOAA is working hard to meet our mission and support everyone.
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Q. Diversity has been a hot topic, and this includes officer ranks in the branches. What are your thoughts on diversity across the military, and where you think MOAA could fit in?
A. We advocate equally for all different races, religions … and I think that as we look at what we should be advocating for, we need to take all of that into consideration. I think we do a good job of that.
I know from a board perspective, we are working very hard to bring on members of the board who are not only male and female, not only Caucasian and Black, but Hispanic and others to try to make sure that we’re properly represented across the board. It is an area that I think is very important as we move forward.