The American Legion Post 148 here in Fort Wayne is on the verge of a watershed election on May 3 for post commander. The post is one of two Indiana posts with a predominantly African American leadership and patrons. There is much to be proud of with the Fort Wayne post, but there is much disappointment as well.
First and most importantly, the post is a veteran’s organization with primary focus on Americanism and Community Service. Unfortunately, the post has not met its obligations to the community or its veterans and it is shameful in the least. The post had a violent crime committed on its property (murder) in June 2013 and has had numerous altercations associated with alcohol and late business hours.
The American Legion is a renowned national organization with core principles of Americanism, Children and Youth Programs, National Security initiatives, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, and Community Service (www.legion.org); it is not organized to be a nightclub or drinking hole. Sadly, Post 148 has not followed through on any of these initiatives over the past few years.
To provide the proper foundation for post success, the post commander must be able to articulate a vision. The position is one of leadership and requires a philosophy that develops, fosters, and supports teamwork and community interaction. A leadership philosophy must be deeply rooted in values, vision, viewpoints and commitment to subordinate leader empowerment. A leadership plan inculcates a core set of values that will permeate throughout the organization. A leader must conceptualize and aggressively execute an attainable and straightforward vision that includes each subordinate organizational member. Additionally, a leader must also value divergent viewpoints and ideas to incorporate needed changes within the scope of the overall vision.
Finally, a leader must empower their subordinates through initiative, innovation and praise, while building trust within the organization, its subordinate leaders and the encompassing vision. This is why this election is so critical: Post leadership has been sorely lacking, and meeting, then exceeding, American Legion standards.
Professionalism and adherence to regulatory policies and directives are non negotiable. Key focal points in the Fort Wayne community include a continual program to increase new member status. The post cannot sustain itself without a consistent level of new membership. It must immediately and effectively implement a committed recruitment plan that visits each Guard and Reserve unit in the Fort Wayne area. The post needs to specifically focus on minority, post 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan veterans. To market the post to this younger member group, it also needs to alter the face of the post to one of community service, scholarship and veteran’s services.
Finally, a focus should be placed on promoting the benefits of the post (and history) to veterans who were either dissatisfied with their previous post experience or simply do not know of the post’s offerings. In regards to these initiatives, the post leadership must synergize efforts to provide focus and clarity on marketing post benefits and meeting member and veteran’s expectations. In many respects, the historical value of the Post provides its own positive marketing point and it must aim to promote the distinctness of its reputation.
Building community interest and post support will provide a foundation for veteran growth and community marketing. The post commander has a key responsibility to provide a ‘face’ to the community business, church, educational, and political leaders. Word of mouth advertisement is viral and inherently leads to deep community commitment. The Post needs to work closely with community leaders to promote the organization and its mission.
The post should be a reflection of our Fort Wayne community. In that respect, post efforts in recruiting, scholarship delivery, hosted veterans functions, community activities with other VA entities, and visits to military Guard and Reserve units is a starting point. Marketing of any product or service requires an aggressive but focused campaign of advertising, communication, and personal contacts. In effect, all three of these services can be completed through a proactive rather than reactive marketing strategy. The post must promote itself by actively and consistently reaching out to all elements of the community (business, church, educational, political, and social). Member growth will not occur at the expected levels by a reliance on status quo activities.
In closing, all politics are local and the election of the commander of American Legion Post 148 is critically important to our local community, our veteran reputation, and our current veterans. If you’re a member of American Legion Post 148, ensure that you exercise your vote on May 3, 2014.
For God and Country
The American Legion