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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs at the military level, including information for all branches of the armed services.

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~August 2003~ Topics

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Which Hat Should I Wear?

What are you doing right now as you read this? Eating the lunch you never have time to leave your desk for? Scheduling a meeting via the telephone? Writing yourself a note about a task you need to do today?

The term “multitasking” was originally coined to refer to a computer’s ability to execute more than one task at a time. In multitasking the single CPU involved switches from one program to another so quickly that it gives the appearance of executing all of the programs at the same time. Remind you of any volunteer coordinators you know?!

A term used similarly by the military is "dual-hatted," referring generally to a commander who oversees two distinct but compatible operations. Most military installations have an installation volunteer coordinator (IVC) who serves as the single point of contact for volunteerism. Although the responsibilities of the IVC vary dependent on the service and installation, more and more IVCs are dual-hatted – acting as the commander’s representative on volunteer issues while simultaneously fulfilling another role, often in another service-dependent area such as relocation or family readiness. With dual-hatting comes the resultant expectation that you can handle several, often unrelated, tasks simultaneously. Although the National Institute of Mental Health has published findings that indicate switching back and forth between tasks actually takes longer than staying with and completing the task at hand, we continue to unreasonably expect just that of ourselves.

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How do you, as a dual-hatted, multi-tasked volunteer coordinator stay sane? You can take some tips from successful CEOs who maintain strict personal rules about how they multi-task.

    1. Determine if your two areas of responsibility are compatible. If not, can you “trade” areas with another staff member to make it workable for all of your programs?
    2. Try to focus on one task at a time. Give yourself permission to persevere on a task until it’s completed.
    3. Volunteer coordinators, like many volunteers, have a hard time saying “no”. Practice!
    4. You make a contract when you make an appointment with someone. It’s not only important to keep the appointment, but also to give it your full attention. If you cannot, ask someone to take the appointment for you – or ask them to follow-up for you.
    5. The most important thing to know about technology is when to turn it off. Turn off your cell phone, pager, and ringer on your telephone when you have something pressing to do or are in an appointment. If you have a receptionist or administrative assistance, let him or her know that you’re unavailable for an hour – call it quiet time.
    6. Practice the art of intelligent neglect. Eliminate or postpone tasks that do not benefit your program or your volunteers.
    7. Look to your own program for help. What better way to connect with your volunteers than to have one volunteer for you? In your files you have a volunteer with a profile uniquely fitted to assisting you with program management; but, be mindful of government rules that prohibit placing volunteers in positions normally filled by paid employees.
    8. Take time to list your goals for your volunteer program. Assess its state – is it alive and well? Does it need maintenance only or is it faltering, needing constant attention.

Again, just like many volunteers, volunteer coordinators have a hard time saying “no”. Practice!

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More Than “ A Few Good” Volunteers

Volunteering has played an integral role throughout military history in the lives of soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors, and Coast Guardsmen. Early on, soldiers were the recipients of volunteer efforts, in the form of mended uniforms, care for their wounds, and comfort for their families when they fell. Today, as often as they are the recipients, active duty and reserve military members, Department of Defense civilian employees, retirees, their spouses and children are volunteers – in schools, hospitals, sports activities, retirement centers, churches, community service projects – anywhere they’re needed. Through their dedication, they not only transform military installations into communities, but also become very active members of their communities outside the gates.

Department of Defense (DoD) family centers have served as the focal point for military families for over 25 years ago. “Family centers” identifies Army Community Service Centers, Navy and Marine Corps Fleet and Family Service Centers, and Air Force Family Support Centers -- the places to go when military members and their families need assistance with the unique demands of the military lifestyle. Their support programs keep family and military members informed and provide support when necessary, always encouraging self-sufficiency. A primary focus has always been volunteerism.

Not every local community takes maximum advantage of the willing, talented, and active men, women, and youth living and working just inside the base or post gates. Often that is simply because community organizations and agencies are not aware of the existence of volunteer resource offices. Each branch of the service may call their program by a different name, but the overriding mission is always the same – service to their communities, on and off duty, on and off the installation.

The Army encourages a culture of service and citizenship by offering a wide range of volunteer opportunities through Horn Players Animated Imagetheir Army Community Service (ACS) Centers. Typically the ACS has over 10,000 volunteers who contribute approximately 500,000 hours of service annually. Most ACS staffs have a volunteer supervisor who can help your agency or community find a great fit for your volunteer needs.

Even though the Marines are America’s most deployed force, they are well known for their off-duty volunteer activities, many coordinated through the Marine Corps Community Services. One of America’s best-known volunteer activities, Toys for Tots is sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserves and annually benefits military and community children.

The Navy’s Fleet and Family Service Centers provide meaningful volunteer opportunities, from on-base youth coaching to participation in the Adopt-A-School Program. Adopt-A-School began as a grassroots effort that has developed into a true partnership between community schools and the Navy and Marine Corps. Sailors and Marines make a huge difference in numerous ways through this program, from summer reading to mentoring youth.Although many volunteer at their own child’s school, there are also many volunteers who do not have children but treat this volunteer opportunity as an investment in America’s future .

Since the early 1980’s, Air Force Family Support Centers have helped maintain a diverse system of support functions, including a Volunteer Resource Program. Though the program emphasizes personal development through community involvement, it can also provide volunteer opportunities suited to professional development for spouses seeking new or updated work-related experience. Like its sister services, the Air Force recognizes the importance of its volunteers by offering volunteers a number of free childcare hours at its on-base facilities.

Like thousands of other volunteers, the unselfish efforts of those associated with the military touch lives and inspire hearts across America. They carry their military excellence and volunteer spirit into communities around the world, wherever they are serving.

Check out http://www.military.com for a list of military installations near your community. Call the family center and find out if you can enlist more than “a few good” volunteers!

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