Volunteers make the difference, you can too

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stephen Harvey
  • 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander
I need a volunteer!! The four words we all love to hear! Well maybe not, but it's up to us to make it that way!

I'm absolutely amazed at the number of worthy volunteer opportunities available to us here at Kadena. It's not just reading and tutoring the kids at the local elementary or middle schools, or a day out at the local orphanage--there's so much more. Worthy causes include Squadron Key Spouses, Heroes of Planet Earth, the American Cancer Society, the United Services Organization, the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Red Cross Derby Days, Operation Warm Heart and countless other organizations that request our assistance and need our help.

As military members, we're constantly reminded of the importance of being well-rounded individuals and how evaluations and awards consider the "whole person concept" as criteria for the highest ratings and winning packages. But it can be a daunting challenge to consider what organizations or causes we choose to support in our limited time while attempting to balance our work, home and extracurricular activities.

As a commander, I try to be a good conduit of information to my squadron members. I pass on the requests for volunteers and attempt to volunteer with some worthy causes on a regular basis. Devoting our limited "off-duty" time to these worthy causes is obviously time consuming and I'm often asked how much is expected to garner the all-important "well-rounded" seal of approval. That's a fantastic question, and I'll give you the same answer I give my folks--it depends.

In my mind, there are two keys to volunteering. First, it provides you the opportunity to get out and do something you enjoy. When you find a cause that you get excited about, you're more inclined to support it with enthusiasm; this will be obvious to the individuals you encounter and have a huge impact on the success of your endeavor. An excellent example happened just a couple weeks ago when the Boy Scouts held their week-long spring camp at the Kin Blue Range near Camp Hansen.

Boy Scouts from all over Okinawa, Korea, Taiwan, and Mainland Japan converged on the range to learn and sharpen their scouting skills and, of course, earn some merit badges. I volunteered to run the aquatics program which consisted of swimming, lifesaving, rowing, kayaking, canoeing, motor boating, scuba diving merit badges and the mile swim, and snorkeling activities.

As I viewed the list of badges we were trying to offer, I was daunted by the diverse requirements and special skills that would be required to award the badges. There is no way we could have possibly completed this huge undertaking without the numerous volunteers who gave up their spring break to come out and teach these skills.

The call for merit badge counselors was answered by many Team Kadena members, Eagle Scouts, and numerous volunteers from all around the island. Some of our volunteers were experts in their areas and others just wanted to help out in any way they could. The volunteer's enthusiasm was obvious and the Scouts responded in kind. It was a fantastic week, and although it was a lot of hard work, I know both the Boy Scouts and volunteers really enjoyed the occasion.

In the end, we awarded hundreds of merit badges to worthy Scouts; many of whom would not have had the chance due to their isolated stations--none of this would have been possible without our volunteers.
The second key to volunteering is it provides you the opportunity to work outside your conform zone--to grow and stretch your skills.

The Kadena community is in constant need of volunteers to assist in diverse capacities. Causes such as local orphanages, beach cleanups, Women's History Month, Memorial Day and Veteran's Day ceremonies, Airmen Against Drunk Driving, March for Babies, the list goes on and on.

You can volunteer for basic manual labor, step up to lead a team, coordinate supporting agencies, or answer the call as the overall point of contact a.k.a. "Projo" and run the entire operation. Your rank doesn't matter; your enthusiasm and commitment are what count. While you're lending your enthusiasm and time to these worthy causes, you'll be learning valuable skills that you'll be able to put to use in your primary duty--you'll also see how fortunate we are.

So there you have it, the secret to volunteering. You get to spend yourself in a worthy cause and develop your leadership and organizational skills as your payback--not to mention the intangible "feel good" factor.

Our squadron holds a monthly newcomers orientation where I get the opportunity to sit down with each of my new squadron members and discuss our mission, our priorities, and Kadena as a place to live and work.

We talk about the importance of what we do each and every day as well as the fantastic opportunities available to each and every one of us while we're stationed here--to include engagement in the local community.

My challenge to my squadron members is make certain we don't leave Kadena as the same person that we came here as, and that we should strive to leave this place better than we found it.

By doing these things, we develop our "whole person" persona which will be followed by the high ratings and winning packages. So get out there.

Volunteer and do good things!