Throughout the course of the Navy League’s 109th National Convention in Chattanooga, Tenn., Oct. 26-29, sea service and civilian leaders alike drove home the message that our mission of educating the public about the importance of maintaining a strong maritime presence does, indeed, matter.
From the Welcome Aboard reception, to the Wounded Warrior Reception at the Tennessee Aquarium, to the closing dinner, Navy Leaguers from around the world and guests experienced Southern hospitality at its finest. The convention’s host — the Greater Chattanooga-John J. Spittler Council — set the tone for a productive, energizing and enjoyable week.
Among the sea service leaders joining us to speak in various venues were Kevin M. Tokarski, the Maritime Administration’s associate administrator for National Security; Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, vice chief of Naval Operations; Coast Guard Vice Adm. John P. Currier, the service’s first deputy commandant for Mission Support; Rear Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III, Navy chief of Legislative Affairs; Maj. Gen. Timothy C. Hanifen, Marine Corps director of Expeditionary Warfare; and Rear Adm. Karl L. Schultz, Coast Guard director of Government and Public Affairs. Each noted the difficult budget climate and fiscal uncertainty their services face. Now, more than ever, they need the Navy League’s help in communicating with lawmakers and the public about the critical role the sea services play in the defense, security and prosperity of this nation.
“The Navy League has never been more important in these times that we face as a nation, to help us carry that message and to educate a new generation about the responsibilities of leadership that we have as a maritime nation,” Adm. Ferguson told the audience at the closing dinner.
One of the most important goals in our mission of education and advocacy is supporting our sea service members and their families. That is why the Sea Service Awards Luncheon is such a special event each year. Hundreds of nominations for these awards pour in to Navy League Headquarters, and it is the job of the Awards Board to select the best of the best for their courage, initiative, achievement and commitment to excellence. This is a monumental undertaking, and again we were honored to have J. William Middendorf, former secretary of the Navy and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as Awards Board chairman, his 34th year in this important role!
Particularly exciting was seeing the standing ovations for two award winners. First for the bravery under fire displayed in Afghanistan by Marine Corps Capt. Timothy Rajcevich and the second when Coast Guard Yeoman 1st Class VanDell Dawson was advanced to the rank of chief petty officer. He was pinned by Vice Adm. Currier and fellow awardee Chief Warrant Officer Brian D. Addicott.
Naturally, another highlight of the convention for me was my induction on Oct. 29 as the 47th national president, as well as the swearing in of national vice presidents, area and region presidents, and new members of the Board of Directors. We have an energized, focused leadership team, which will be exciting to work with.
I also unveiled my “Every Member Get a Member … Involved” initiative. It is aimed at getting more Navy League members, including new members, engaged in doing the work of the Navy League. It is my hope that mentorship will match individual skills and strengths with tasks that further the core missions of our organization.
Congratulations to the Chattanooga Council and 2011 National Convention Committee Chairman Dan Saieed and his team for an outstanding event. I also extend my thanks to the Navy League Headquarters staff for the event’s seamless execution. See to you in Honolulu in June!Every Member Get a Member … Involved!
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