For the last year, I’ve been serving on the Executive Board of the Fort Bliss Officer and Civilian Spouse Association. I can honestly say when I volunteered to do this, I had no idea what I was signing up for. All I knew was that I wanted to be more involved on post. SoldierMan is the soldier, but this is my Army life, too, and I wanted to find my niche.
When I first joined as a regular member a few years ago, I thought Spouse Club was basically just a big post-wide coffee group with monthly luncheons, special activities, and fun subclubs, like Book Club, Wine Club, Lunch Bunch, Stitchers….It wasn’t until I got more involved that I learned how much more there is to it. (Cue Sandra Bullock: It’s a scholarship program!)
OCSA owns two stores: the post Thrift Shop and the post Gift Shop. We also do different kinds of fundraisers throughout the year to benefit the community. My role in all this was as the 2nd Vice President, which at Fort Bliss means that I oversaw the stores, the fundraisers, and managed our clubhouse. I was the Keeper of the Keys, so to speak. Literally, I had a box of like 50 keys. I still don’t know what they all went to.
Anyway, so we do fun stuff, and we raise money. The 2013-2014 board year was “officially” our 65th anniversary, so we thought a cool fundraising goal would be $65,000. A fairly high bar to set but not impossible. To meet that goal, it meant lots of meetings, a luncheon every month, two major fundraisers, and the ongoing work at the stores. Hundreds of man-hours plus the support of our membership each month.
Part of being on the board meant getting to work on a variety of projects with spouses from all over post and with a wide range of experience. It was such a learning and growing process! Things I never would have known about or heard about otherwise, I learned through OCSA. And not just Army stuff. We’re a pretty good sized 501c3, with two business entities, and I was able to gather a lot of knowledge and experience about those areas as well. I keep thinking, “If only I knew then (when I began) what I know now,” but that would be impossible. There’s just so much!
Of course, all that time and effort was as a team, and we had a wonderful team this year. I was definitely the newb on the Exec Board, and one of the junior-est spouses, which was certainly intimidating. But the leadership on the Board immediately embraced me and helped me hit the ground running – which I had to! we had a lot to do! – and I am so thankful for the relationships we’ve built over the last year. Never once did they make me feel like I was asking a stupid question (even though I did, plenty of times) or make me feel as though I was anything less than 100% capable of being successful in this position, even with my inexperience. Whether it was club-related, Army-related, or general life experience, having these leadership spouses to go to was invaluable to me. I would not have had that without OCSA.
Oh, that $65,000 goal we set at the beginning of the year? Totally beat that. We were able to give $40,000 in Community Grants, to organizations like the El Paso Honor Flight, the local Humane Society, and the Armed Services YMCA, and many others. We also gave out $29,000 in scholarships to graduating seniors and continuing education students. We did that. And I got to be a part of it.
Today, I officially handed over my box o’ keys and my 2VP notebook to my successor. And yes, there was some relief involved. Particularly since yesterday began with an 0800 phonecall from the post Fire Safety, “We need to inspect your building, can you meet me there in 10 minutes?” Uh, I live 30 minutes from the clubhouse, and I’m in my pajamas, so no. :) But it was sad, too. Really, truly the end of an amazing experience. I grew up doing civic organizations and local community involvement, and I had forgotten how much I missed that until I really got neck-deep in OCSA. Plus, it meant finally conceding that I no longer had regular appointments to hang out with some of the coolest people I’ve met since we joined the Army.
And that was, without a doubt, the best part. Between the Executive Board, the Governing Board, or the general membership, I’ve had the benefit of being surrounded by some amazing women, from other junior spouses all the way to the CG’s wife. Being part of OCSA has made one of the largest Army posts in the world feel much smaller, much friendlier, and definitely like home.
The biggest thing I am taking with me is the relationships I’ve had the good fortune to make with these incredible ladies. They are educated, driven, community leaders managing a sizeable 501c3 charitable organization, two retail entities, in addition to taking care of their own families, volunteering within their own units, and supporting their husbands’ careers as well as making time for their own personal enrichment…I can’t lie, I’m walking away inspired and motivated. I feel capable and equipped to take on motherhood within Army life in a way I can’t imagine I would have otherwise.
So, thank you, FBOCSA, for the amazing opportunities and wonderful memories. This has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life and I would do it all over again. One day. In the distant future.