U. S. Army Warrant Officers Association
How We Scratch the Itch
Periodically we are questioned by a chapter or an individual member expressing concern that we are not taking a position, or a strong enough position, on a particular issue. Such questioning is healthy for an association such as ours for a couple of reasons. Often the questions serve to bring attention to an issue that may not be clearly recognized or understood by our leadership. Secondly, such questioning serves as a vehicle for an exchange of ideas between the individual(s) raising the issue and USAWOA leaders. In many instances knowledge is gained by all parties involved. Also, there is understanding and appreciation gained about what and why our Association is doing, or perhaps not doing something, in a particular area.
The purpose of this article is to present information about how USAWOA selects issues on which to take a position and how we approach the issues. First of all, selection. Our bylaws allow chapters and regions to bring forward issues, as a resolution, at each Annual Meeting of the Members. The resolutions may deal with topics strictly internal to USAWOA, such as the structure of life-member dues. Or, the issues may address corps-wide concerns, such as seeking to expand fully funded civilian education. After study and discussion, the resolutions accepted by favorable membership vote become the positions on which our Association acts. Following acceptance, our Association's leadership decides how and where to best move on the action. Action(s) taken are reported to the membership through the
NEWSLINER, the monthly chapter presidents' letter, USAWOA Online, or other means.
A second method of selection occurs when the USAWOA leadership learns of an issue, which impacts the warrant officer corps. This knowledge may come because of a question from the field. However, more commonly it comes from conversations with action officers at the HQDA level or the MACOM level. The impact may be favorable to the corps, or it may be unfavorable, but clearly is something that your leadership feels is significantly important enough to "weigh-in" with a position. It is our philosophy that it is just as important to present positions on issues of favorable impact on the corps as it is to present positions on issues with unfavorable impact.
Let's examine the USAWOA approach to an issue. The first important point to know is that it has been our long tradition to NOT deal with issues affecting a single individual or a small group of individuals. USAWOA will not involve itself in the assignment discontent of "CWO Doe" or the "improper utilization of the 35lBs at Fort Swampy." To do otherwise would undermine our stated goal of representing the entire warrant officer corps. In these individual cases however, USAWOA leadership seeks to direct the individual(s) to the proper channels or authorities who can act to resolve valid problems.
Secondly, it is important to understand that often USAWOA is asked for a position
"off the record." It has been our long practice to carefully research the issue in question and provides a position believed to be best for the long-term health of the corps. Our Association then absolutely respects the requested confidentiality of the process. Members frequently ask why we don't publicize a position we've taken or "take credit" for what some might consider a "victory." The answer is easy; if we did, we'd no longer have the reputation for professionalism that we now enjoy; quite likely we'd no longer be asked for input to the information gathering/decision process.
Also, it is not uncommon for USAWOA to "get wind" of something that might have an unfavorable impact on the corps. Frequently, we chose to take a "wait and see" position. Again, it is difficult for a questioning member to understand why this may be the best approach. The member may have heard something at a proponent school course, a MOS related conference, or received an e-mail posting through one of the many warrant officer distribution lists. The member is "hot" on a particular issue and asks why we're not doing anything. Through long exposure to the process, our Association has learned that in the HQDA, MACOM, and proponent environment, many ideas are
"floated" merely as discussion starters or "straw men." Many of the ideas or subjects die a natural death. It has been learned that a "the sky is falling" type of approach is counter productive. It's our Association's process to wait and watch. If an issue with impact on the corps develops, it will then be decided whether to present a position. If it is, USAWOA will weigh in where and when we can to achieve the maximum results.
We have presented the several ways we use to address issues and concerns. They are successful and today, allow us to be in an opportune position. Many times we can "scratch" before there's an "itch." In many cases USAWOA and the warrant officer corps is represented at the action-officer/early planning-level. At this level many concerns are addressed and solutions identified and implemented BEFORE the subject becomes something of corps wide concern.
Finally, USAWOA has a long precedent to engage the issue, rather than attack the agency or individuals involved. The key word is once again professionalism. We will not get very far if, for example, we attack the DCSPER (now Army G-1) of the Army, or Senator "Doe" for a particular position
"Professionalism" is the key word that drives USAWOA selection of the concerns we address, and the method by which we address the issues. This has been our past direction and will be our future direction. Rather than following the approach of "being the first with the most" we choose to save our ammunition for the big targets and to make our first shot count.
Based on an article by CW5 Ray Bell, then
USAWOA National President in the June 1999 NEWSLINER