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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2015

A Call for Volunteer Service

By Col. Rob Lyman 628th Air Base Wing and Joint Base Charleston, commander

"There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured him."    Thomas Jefferson

When we see this quote, most of us in the military or civil service immediately think of our professional service as our down payment on the debt Jefferson references.  While I agree, I would maintain that our debt of service is perhaps broader.

The Air Force has rightfully put a renewed emphasis on duty performance and all the military services make that the centerpiece of performance evaluation.  Let there be no mistake, first and foremost, we need all our personnel to be focused on their primary mission, the associated tough and realistic training and our ability to expertly execute our assigned missions.  Duty performance remains the centerpiece of our evaluation system - and sustaining our ability to expertly execute all assigned missions is at the core of our institution.  That should not imply we don't highly value volunteer community service as a premium addition to excellent duty performance. 

In communities like ours, those of us in uniform are regularly thanked for our service.  It is humbling.  We sometimes forget that we are surrounded by a host of others that serve - teachers, first responders, local elected officials and other "service" professions.  While different, their service matters to our nation.  What's more, regardless of our chosen profession, we can all serve through volunteerism.  Acts of community service connect all of us with our greater citizenry and create further bonds of fellowship.

"We have let the concept of service become dangerously narrow, often associated only with the military.  This allows most Americans to avoid the sense of responsibility essential for us to care for our nation--and for each other.  We expect and demand less of ourselves than we should."   General Stanley A. McChrystal, US Army Retired

This month we are focused on our annual Combined Federal Campaign.  Many of us choose to donate to worthy organizations and causes.  Additionally, we should challenge ourselves to donate a portion of our time, through volunteerism, to similar issues over the coming year.  Choose an issue or organization that calls to your sense of duty regarding our nation: bolstering education, preserving the environment, researching cures for disease, a particular public policy, supporting a professional organization, the list of possible national and local issues is as varied as our communities are.  The first challenge is cementing the will to make a difference by volunteering.  The second is finding and selecting the right volunteer opportunity for you. 

After recent heavy rains and flooding, there will be opportunities for our Joint Base personnel to volunteer to support recovery efforts across local communities.  Let's continue to be good neighbors to the South Carolina Lowcountry. 

There are numerous websites both for volunteers to find opportunities and for organizations needing support to find volunteers.  Our own Joint Base Community Coordinators can help in both areas.  In addition to a quick web search, volunteers should contact them for ideas.  Organizations looking for volunteers can also contact them for help publicizing events and assisting in finding volunteers.  Mr. George Ferguson, the Joint Base Volunteer Coordinator, is the point of contact.  (See the information box for contact info).

Furthermore, let's celebrate and incentivize good works of community service.  Base and community service is an element of our quarterly awards and there are a number of awards solely based on community service contributions, including the President's Service Awards, the Congressional Award and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.  Actively look for our teammates who are volunteering then recognize and reward them!  We also have events throughout the year to celebrate those contributions. 

The 15th Annual Day of Caring, which offers teams of volunteers the opportunity to spend all or a portion of the day making a difference with service opportunities such as revitalizing playgrounds for young students, planting trees in local parks and restoring trails, among many other opportunities, is coming up on November 13.  National Public Service Week is in May.  Teacher's Day is Tuesday of the first full week of May and other service professions have their days of celebration throughout the year as well.  We should work to honor those contributions just as our uniformed service members have been honored. 

As I look back on my life, I know I owe debts to our nation that I can't pay.  I suspect I am not alone in that assessment.  Regardless of our professional calling, our shared responsibility to fulfill our debt of service can solidly begin with volunteerism.

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."    Albert Schweitzer

Volunteer service and award incentive information:

The Joint Base Charleston Volunteer Coordinator is Mr.  George Ferguson: 843-963-5187.

The Corporation for National and Community Service has a Find a Volunteer Opportunity function:

The Trident United Way of the Lowcountry Area of South Carolina has a function for volunteers to look for, and for agencies to manage, volunteer opportunities:

Points of Light Foundation has a Find Volunteer Opportunities function:

The President's Volunteer Service Award:

The Congressional Award:

For more information on these programs contact the Airmen and Family Readiness Center, the Fleet and Family Support Center, and Youth Programs. 

The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM) may be awarded by Group Commanders: