114th Congressional Women History Month Reception hosted by Nancy Pelosi with special guest Dr. Jill Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama
It was a lovely day as we were greeted by illustrious Dozen’s at the Capitol building in Downtown D.C. Upon arrival light refreshments were served as we awaited the start of the event honoring women veterans for their service to our country. Leader Pelosi began by welcoming the speakers of the afternoon and highlighting their accomplishments individually as they made their way to the podium.
Dr. Jill Biden spoke about the pertinence of the Joining Forces initiative. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sector to ensure service members, vets, and family are equipped with the tools they need to thrive.
“It’s so important that we ensure women veterans have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Because a new job and degree can empower a veteran and her family. Its gets them their shot at the American Dream,” said Dr. Biden.
First Lady Michelle Obama continued the thoughts of Dr. Biden with a call to action, but not without honoring Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught. Obama called Vaught “one of the most inspiring, trailblazing women I have ever met. She then went on to say “Thanks to brilliant, fearless women like general Vaught, today more than 200,000 women are serving our country in just about every role and rank,” the first lady said. “They are flying fighter jets, training new recruits, they’re graduating Army Ranger School -- and I met those graduates. They are awesome -- fierce. And as you’ve already heard, they will soon be welcome in every combat unit in our armed forces.”
She also spoke about the many challenges women in uniform face today and closed her speech out with a call to action for all women veterans. “Today I want to challenge everyone to take action on behalf of women veterans. If you are a women veteran I urge you to share your story, your service, your sacrifices.”
At the end of the event, Leader Pelosi, the first lady, Dr. Biden, and members of Congress honored retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught with an American flag that was flown over Capital on the day of her retirement from the President of the Board of Directors of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc. General Vaught was the first female general in Air Force history; she also is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Museum and serves on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation Board of Trustees. During her military career, she held various positions in the comptroller field at Barksdale AFB, LA; Zaragoza AFB, Spain; McCoy AFB, The Pentagon, Washington, DC; and she was the Deputy Chief of Staff, Comptroller, USAF Systems Command, Andrews AFB, MD. She is most decorated woman veteran of the U.S. Air Force to date.
This morning AFSA HQ staff, along with a few local chapter members, attended a breakfast hosted by our good friends at the Air Force Association (AFA) featuring a keynote address from the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force, Mrs. Deborah Lee James. SECAF James opened with a toast to all Airmen but also focused on celebration of Black History Month and specifically mentioned the Tuskegee Airmen, with whom she will meet later in the month.
Discussing the future of the Air Force, SECAF James recognized the fact that the Air Force has been doing more with less and revealed her vision to grow the force over the coming years. With threats coming in the form of North Korea’s weapons testing, China’s growing presence in the South Sea in addition to space and cyber threats, the Air Force is fully engaged in every part of the world. James said, “We’ve never been busier on such a sustained and global basis” and because of such she “is very cognizant that it is having a toll upon [Airmen].”
Balance between readiness and modernization was another key point as SECAF James mentioned that we have an aging aircraft inventory and gaps in technology that are in need of modernization. She mentioned the importance of funding flying hours, investing in weapons systems and maintaining combat exercises like Red Flag. While the retirement of the A-10 has been put on the back burner for now, fleet modernization efforts will continue on platforms such as the F-35 fighter and KC-46 tanker.
Nearing the end of her speech SECAF James shared her concern about the potential for a return of sequestration in coming years which would set the Air Force back in readiness and modernization. She urged supporters to put the pressure on Congress to repeal the Budget Control Act to end sequestration altogether. AFSA couldn’t agree more. HQ looks forward to another enlightening meeting with the Air Force Association.
Today, members from eight different organizations within The Military Coalition (TMC), including Co-Chairs from both the MilPers-Commissaries as well as the MWR-Milcon committees, had the chance to meet with Mr. Mike Immler, Deputy Director of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES).
The panel had a deliberate discussion on the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), its appropriated funding and the need to find efficiencies on AAFES. Aside from similar business concepts and others discussed at the meeting, Immler was kind enough to share data from AAFES FY 2014 receipts. Aside from some pretty impressive numbers, the information that was presented provided a more in depth understanding resale issues within DoD, especially when you consider what follows can be impacted by Commissary developments (funding, efficiencies, etc.)
This informative luncheon was one of many AFSA HQ plans to host in the near future to shed light on the work being done behind closed to doors.
Congratulations to Shannon Corcoran, 2015 Airmen Memorial Foundation (AMF) Scholarship Winner. Cocoran's mother, Connie Corcoran recently shared a lovely post of gratitude and a great update on Shannon's continued success. We are deeply honored to be a part of her story...
"Shannon received the Airmen's Memorial Foundation Scholarship for 2015 and it was for $2,000.00. Shannon is at Clemson University, in the Calhoun Honor's College, studying Mathematical Sciences and Physics. She is a 2nd semester sophomore and has a 4.0 average, being named to the President's list every semester. She is also a member of the Clemson University Dance Team, "The Rally Cats" . They dance at all the football and basketball games and do community service. She is also a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. (She just danced at the Orange Bowl and her team is in the National Championships -- Go Tigers!)
Once Shannon knew she wanted to attend Clemson she knew that she needed to find scholarships to help our family afford the out of state tuition. We have always told Shannon that hard work will get you what you want and she is definitely a hard worker. So, we started looking for scholarships that fit her profile. Since her Dad is a Retired Master Sergeant who served in Desert Storm we looked for Air Force Scholarships and our AFSA membership benefits. That's where she found the AMF Scholarship and applied. She also applied for numerous other scholarships and received many, helping take the burden off our family. Students need to know that there are scholarships out there for every student, not just freshmen. Thanks to Air Force Sergeants Association for making scholarships available to help military families succeed. I am not sure if organizations realize how much they are helping college students reach their dreams without amassing a huge amount of debt! Thank you. And to everyone out there, apply for outside scholarships. They are out there!"
By Michelle Gray, Staff Writer
Just in time for the holidays AFSA partners with FELA (Financial Education & Literacy Advisers) to offer members free financial planning resources. As the holidays approach you might be more concerned with your financial well-being than usual.
FELA offers a complimentary, online financial education program known as LifeCents for VALOR for AFSA members and their families. Through this program, AFSA members and their families get a complimentary personalized financial health assessment, special offers on financial services, and learn to better manage their money.
After signing up, the website directs you to the dashboard where you can begin your financial assessments; which are abundantly helpful. The assessments range from financial health, credit report basics, and VALOR even teaches you how to create a budget.
From the perspective of a twenty-something year old, I greatly appreciate the benefits of FELA. It allows me to become more confident in my spending, and ensures me that I am on the road to financial stability. The best part is that you can enter the grand prize drawing for a $250 gift card!
Getting to where you want to go financially takes work, and AFSA's new member benefit can help by providing an assessment and tools to learn better money management.
Relieve the stress of holiday spending and get the support you need from FELA today!
By Michelle Gray, Staff Writer
AFSA continues to make strides advocating for the needs of enlisted Airmen, Veterans, and their families.
Recently AFSA sponsored an Air Force Caucus Luncheon on Capitol Hill. The forum brought together House and Senate congressional staff members to hear Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Jim Cody discuss military-related issues.
During the catered lunch, Cody did not pull any punches with getting to the concerns of the congressional staff members.
In response to questions about the operational tempo of the Air Force, Cody said that, “Not in any way, shape, or form are we getting less business." Cody also spoke on topics regarding the sustainability of the Air Force and his concerns about the shrinking size of the Air Force. He also informed the audience about a relatively new program, Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or C.O.O.L) that assists Airmen in obtaining civilian certifications in their specific jobs.
“I believe the luncheon was very successful,” said Morgan Brown, Director of Military & Government Relations for HQ AFSA. “This event gave headquarters a chance to facilitate an advantageous situation for Chief Cody. Everyone’s voice was heard and congressional members even gave their feedback to the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force.”
AFSA HQ Staff looks forward to the next Air Force Caucus event, which is likely to be held in the spring.
While we won’t know which way Congress is going to go with the 2016 military pay raise until Congress returns next month, indications are that it will be a 1.3 percent raise. We hope those indications are wrong.
By law, military pay raises are intended to keep up with the economy by paralleling the growth in private sector wages (as measured by an index called the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Interestingly, the measurement that points toward what the 2016 military pay raise should be was taken in October of 2014. Yes, about 15 months before the actual pay raise itself. When that measurement was taken, the ECI for September 2014 was compared to the ECI for 2013. The difference was 2.3 percent. If the law is followed, that should be the military pay raise this upcoming January.
However, in his FY 2016 Budget Plan, as he has done for the past two years, President Obama called for a pay raise lower than called for in law, in this case 1.3 percent. Simply put, his budget plan is non-binding, and his preference for a military pay raise that does not keep up with the economy is meaningless unless Congress allows that to happen. Unfortunately, Congress is divided on the issue.
In its version of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate has gone along with the President’s request, calling for a 1.3 percent raise. The House, however, was silent on the issue and didn’t address it in its version of the NDAA. Because the military pay raise is “different” between the two versions of the defense bill, when the House and Senate meet in conference to iron out their differences, the pay raise will be on the table. Unfortunately, the Senate will go into that conference with the stronger position, so it doesn’t look good for the 2.3 percent pay raise. Again, we hope the matter is resolved in favor of military members.
Also, while the White House and the Senate refers to this reduced military pay raise as “modest,” it is anything but that. Keep in mind that every pay raise thereafter will compound that difference, and future military pay will be accordingly lower. In the future, for those serving a full career, any military pay raise reduction along the way will lead to considerably less pay during military retirement. That is why AFSA fights so hard to protect every tenth of a percentage that should be included in each military pay raise.
On Capitol Hill, numbers are significant, from the number of cosponsors for a particular piece of legislation; to the cost of a proposal; to the number of letters, emails, and calls received on a specific subject. Congress also responds to numbers when it comes to the number of votes needed to be re-elected, and to the magnitude of the excitement in their states and districts on an issue that has come to the fore. In fact, members of Congress often ask our AFSA Headquarters legislative team how many members we represent. Why?
Without question, those associations/organizations with larger membership bases get more attention. They have greater access and influence, more readily get appointments to speak to key officials, receive more testimony opportunities, and are more sought out by Senators and Representatives to clarify important issues. Perhaps this is because members of Congress feel the larger associations more fully reflect the sentiment of the voters. Maybe it is because greater membership indicates that more people think the way they do. It could be that elected officials gauge that the larger associations more accurately mirror the needs of the military and veteran communities. Whatever the reason, without question, the larger an association, the more impact it will have.
AFSA currently has a little over 100,000 members. Considering who can be an AFSA member, we have only tapped about one-tenth of the pool of possible members. We need the help of every AFSA member to help us grow, to have greater influence, and to be better able to persuade Congress to support those matters that translate into a better quality of life for our members, their families, and their survivors. Please make a personal commitment to help us get that done.
Longtime AFSA member and former Executive Director Chief Master Sgt. (Ret) James D. Staton passed away Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Staton was the Executive Director for the Air Force Sergeants Association from 1983 to 2004.
Staton served 27 years in the Air Force before retiring in 1982 as Superintendent, Missile and Space Division, 8th Air Force Headquarters, Barksdale AFB, La. His military career included service in the fields of maintenance, electronics, operations and evaluation. He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant.
His AFSA life membership began in 1977, and he served the association as a chapter president, division president and international vice president before joining the AFSA Headquarters staff in 1982 as Director of Field Operations. He was named Executive Director in October 1983.
Funeral arrangements are still being made, but the family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the AFSA scholarship foundation in Mr. Staton’s name. Donations can be mailed to:
Air Force Sergeants Association
c/o James D. Staton Scholarship Fund
5211 Auth Road
Suitland MD 20746
Here are 3 things you can do to protect your retirement pension: