By Airman 1st Class Lindsey A. Beadle, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 15, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- "Paternity leave, patient travel reimbursement, a transferable Post 9/11 GI Bill and continued annual pay raises," said Master Sgt. Paul Grugin. "There's more too."
The Joint Base Andrews Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 102 president is passionate about AFSA, and when asked to name recent legislative acts that AFSA has had direct influence in, Grugin rolled off the aforementioned contributions with the sincerest of enthusiasm.
"Sorry, I just get passionate when I talk about AFSA," said Grugin.
AFSA is a politically-based special-interest organization whose main goal is taking care of Airmen, big "A". The policies that have passed because of AFSA's direct influence currently affect all Airmen, at every base, no matter the rank.
But how does AFSA get laws like a transferable Post 9/11 GI Bill passed? Much like our own system of government, AFSA is divided into three branches. The smallest of the branches, AFSA's chapters, work directly with each base populous, and ensure that all matters from Airmen on base are heard.
"What people might not understand is that everything at AFSA starts at grass roots," said Grugin. No matter who it is, if an Airman has a concern, they can voice it to their local AFSA chapter. From there, we coordinate to see what all can be done about the issue and see if the matter is a new or an existing one. If it's new, we see what we can do for the Airmen who are affected, and then we bring the issue up to AFSA's higher branches.
Additionally, the majority of AFSA Chapter 102's issues aren't conjured up by current chapter members. Andrews Airmen are the ones whose voice AFSA is speaking on behalf of.
"An Airman may bring an issue they're having to us directly or they might get referred to us by their supervisor," said Grugin. "Basically, we hear about what's affecting Airmen - from Airmen,"
Topics on AFSA's current agenda include ones which will secure tuitions assistance for active duty Airmen, afford military members non-chargeable Child Development Center care which mirrors the pre-existing 30-day leave program and a resolution which will put a stop to organizations who freely desecrate the memorial services of fallen service members.
In addition to voicing the concerns of Airmen, AFSA also reaches out to educate the Andrews base populous about current political legislature.
"Our chapter comes up with ways in which we can educate the base about legislative matters that directly affect them," said Master Sgt. Maurice Osborne, AFSA Chapter 102 legislative trustee. "We figure out what Capitol Hill is talking about right now and with that, we figure out ways in which we can educate our members, along with the base, on these matters. We want to provide Airmen with the tools so that they can make informed decisions and vote intelligently on issues."
Not only does AFSA afford the base populous political education, AFSA Chapter 102 pairs up with other local base organizations to provide sponsorship of base-run events.
We pair up with Base 5/6, ACE (Airmen Committed to Excellence), and Andrews Top 3 and help sponsor base functions, said Osborne. Also, we've have booths at major events, and in doing so, we promote AFSA and allow all of Andrews the chance to stop by and read what AFSA is about and find out what AFSA is doing for them.
Unlike other base organizations though, AFSA affords Airmen a means to have their concerns voiced politically. AFSA gives Airmen the legislative push not found in other base groups.
Military members who wish to become a member of AFSA can be active duty, retired, guard, reserve or a veteran. Additionally, AFSA allows family members of service members to become honorary members of the organization.
The next AFSA Chapter 102 sponsored event slated to take place is "The Cost of Freedom." The event, held today at 9:00 a.m, will pay homage to POW/MIA military members during a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony held at the Airmen Memorial Building in Suitland, Md.
With the same passion Grugin had when listing the benefits current military members are afforded because of AFSA, Grugin and Osborne alike recollect on their reasons for joining AFSA in the first place.
"I'm a first sergeant and I joined AFSA because it was doing for me what I as a first sergeant was doing for my Airmen," said Grugin. "I was inspired to join because AFSA is there, at Capitol Hill every day, fighting for me! AFSA is fighting the fight Airmen don't see."
"I was a one-striper working as a hospital rehabilitation specialist when I first heard about AFSA," said Osborne. "One day, a veteran came in and I began to treat him. They next day I was told I couldn't treat him and when I asked why, I was told it was because political representatives had made a decision that 'too much of my time was going to retired service members and not active duty members.' This wasn't how I felt, so I continued to treat this man. I later voiced my concerns to my superintendent who told me about AFSA. I joined the next day."
For more information on AFSA, AFSA Chapter 102, or how to become an AFSA member, visit www.hqafsa.org or call (301) 899-3500. AFSA Chapter 102 holds monthly meetings at 12 noon in the Club at Andrews.