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AFSA: there to support you

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- There is no doubt that professional organizations help make a well-rounded Airman, that's why the Air Force promotes them. One of the larger organizations is the Air Force Sergeant's Association. With more than 100,000 due paying members, it is one of the strongest lobbying organizations the Air Force has.

"Without AFSA, things that benefit the members of the military wouldn't happen or would be greatly reduced," said Chief Master Sgt. David Gouin, 51st Operations Group superintendent and lifetime AFSA member. "The organization is responsible for lobbying to congress for things like pay raises, but the lobbyists only have leverage when large amounts of people are in the organization."

One of the best things about the organization, despite its names, you don't have to be at least an E-5 to join ... it is open to everyone from the youngest E-1 to the oldest O- 10, though it focuses mostly on enlisted issues.

Currently, AFSA is working on several issues inside Congress. These include improving and protecting healthcare benefits, retaining commissary benefits for Air Force members and their families, increasing PCS weight allowances and continuing to fight for educational benefits, especially a Montgomery GI Bill enrollment opportunity for all servicemembers who aren't currently enrolled.

Chief Gouin said one question a lot of people may ask is what's in it for them?

Other than giving the organization a larger membership to lobby Congress for things to enhance the lives of servicemembers, people also receive discounts at various places, including car rental companies and popular hotel chains.

"Membership also includes a free subscription to a monthly AFSA magazine, which helps keep you informed about what the organization as a whole is working on and has accomplished," Chief Gouin said.

Locally, the organization is involved in the community both on- and off-base. One of the things they have done lately is to adopt a local veteran's home.

"We worked together with students from the Osan American High School to make Veterans Day cards and were able to visit the home to deliver the cards in person." The organization is also responsible for sponsoring one of the distinguished graduate awards from every graduating Airman Leadership School class.

Right now, Osan has about 250 due paying members, but the local chapter wants more. At the beginning of the new year, the organization is starting a membership drive and is trying to be at least 1,000 people strong.

For individuals who aren't quite sure if they want to join or not, Staff Sgt. Tameka Parker, 51st Fighter Wing military equal opportunity office said they are welcome to attend a meeting. The group meets at 4 p.m. every second Thursday of the month at the Mustang Club.

For those who are interested in buying a membership, the costs are $18 for 18 months for any new members who are E-1 through E-4; $25 for one year, $44 for two years, $64 for three years or $350 for a lifetime membership.

"I personally think when you look at the benefits you receive by being a member, you have to wonder why everyone doesn't join," Chief Gouin said. "I think if everyone was to attend just one meeting and experience what AFSA does first hand, it will touch home and capture many people for life."