In the past few months, here in The Augusta Chronicle, veterans’ homelessness and the story of injured soldier Pete Way have been examined. Today’s column will describe how the team members of the Augusta Warrior Project cut through various barriers to best serve our local veterans.
In his new book, The Passion for Leadership, former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates gives a good description of the problems of dealing with large bureaucracies. Gates also served as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and as president of Texas A&M. He has a profound understanding of how large organizations are often captive of their own bureaucracy and their administrative rules. If you are interested in how complex organizations work and how creative people work within them, you might find The Passion for Leadership – or my book Assignment Pentagon: How to Excel in a Bureaucracy – of value.
Why are some bureaucrats not helpful?
• Some are new and just don’t know how to get things done.
• Some are afraid of making a mistake and getting in trouble – hence, they say “no” to requests to avoid difficulties with their boss or their boss’ boss.
• Some have mental and physical health problems and are unable to fully focus on their job.
• Some are distracted because of problems at home (health of a family member, upcoming divorce, heavy debt, autistic child, disabled relative, etc.).
• Some just love following regulations to the letter, and are unwilling to interpret the rules to assist a person.
• Some are approaching retirement and are no longer fully committed to making things happen or helping others.
• Some are both lazy and skillful at passing someone on to another office.
WE MAY THINK that it is the federal government that has the most red tape and bureaucratic barriers. But the problem is widespread. State government agencies can be quite unhelpful, and/or overwhelmed. Also, most of us have had experiences in which a local government agency fails to be responsive to our needs.
So how do Augusta Warrior Project team members work their magic?
AWP works with dozens of organizations at the local and national levels. They get to know the key, helpful people within important organizations such as the Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, city and county governments, our local universities, hospitals, nonprofits and so many more.
Here are a few examples of the fine work of the Augusta Warrior Project.
• AWP team members who work full-time helping veterans with the VA know exactly who within the VA can and will address the problem at hand. AWP has a close relationship with the VA professionals and works closely with them to find solutions for veterans’ problems and needs.
• AWP has team members assigned to our local universities, colleges and technical colleges. These team members help veterans and their family members gain and maximize their G.I. Bill benefits. Veterans are provided sage advice when they are struggling with a tough course or a difficult professor. As graduation day approaches, AWP team members help veterans create sound résumés. They also help them work through the various stages in their job searches.
• AWP team members operate at the Transition Success Center at Fort Gordon. They assist active-duty military members from all the services (as well as those serving in the National Guard and the Reserves). AWP provides one-on-one support as these professionals plan for their transitions to civilian life. One positive result of this AWP assistance is clear. A high percentage of these warriors choose to settle in our area.
To shift gears for a moment, I would like to highlight the next major event to be sponsored by the Augusta Warrior Project. As we all know, next Sunday will be the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America. To commemorate that national tragedy and to honor all who have served in our military, the AWP will play host to a golf tournament at the West Lake Country Club next Sunday. In the future, this event will be held each year on Sept. 11.
ALTHOUGH THE deadline for becoming a player has passed, it is not too late to make a financial contribution to the Augusta Warrior Project. In fact, this is an especially good time to assist the AWP financially. Please join me and donate via the website (www.augustawarriorproject.org). Or simply make out a check to the Augusta Warrior Project and send it to 701 Greene St., Augusta, GA 30901.
I am often asked, “How can I help our veterans in need?” My answer is simple: Send in a check to the Augusta Warrior Project.
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – is an Augusta resident. He welcomes feedback on his articles. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is genpsmith.com.)