MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Continuing the traditions of excellence that distinguishe Marines throughout the world, the local chapter of the National Naval Officers Association was selected Aug. 8 as the national organization's Chapter of the Year in the fewer-than-23 members category - its second such designation in two years.
The chapter was recognized at the 30th Annual NNOA Training Conference held at the Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Va.
More than 200 members of the NNOA from around the world attended the conference, said Lt. Col. Ronald Wallace, chapter president and the director of the Storage and Distribution Department of Marine Corps Logistics Bases' Supply Chain Management Center here.
"I think the true winners are the Marine Corps and the local community," said Wallace, who was elected chapter president in June and took over for Maj. Samuel Henry, the command inspector here, in July. What the NNOA does directly affects the Marine Corps because we are helping make better officers, which helps make a better Marine Corps."
The theme for this year's conference was "Enhancing the Strength and Unity of Our Sea Services Through Diversity." The NNOA Awards Committee looked at the Albany chapter's organizational management, sound financial standing, mentorship, community relationship programs and other local organization elements that stood out.
"The chapter was recognized because we lived up to the goals of the NNOA," said Wallace.
Founded in 1972 in Annapolis, Md., the NNOA's mission is to actively support the sea services in the recruitment, retention and career development of minority officers.
The organization has also assisted minority officers in professional development and mentoring for three decades.
The Albany chapter recently held its Seventh Annual NNOA Scholarship Ball, at which time $1,000 scholarships were awarded to two local high school seniors to help them in their educational pursuits in college. The chapter has awarded more than $8,000 in college scholarships to local high school students since the scholarship program began.
The local chapter has also fostered a tutoring and mentoring relationship with Mock Road Elementary School in Albany under their "Partnership in Excellence" Program. NNOA members have worked with students there for the past two years.
The NNOA members encourage students to study and strive to achieve success in all aspects of their lives. Young people are selected by school officials and paired with NNOA members under the program.
"What we are trying to do is give the students positive role models and make sure they do well in school," said Wallace. "We want the mentor to be someone who cares and will track them through the year."
Along with helping children, the chapter participates in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at Westover High School, intramural basketball and other events to foster community involvement.
The chapter was also recognized because of its emphasis on professional military education. As the guest speaker at the chapter's 2002 scholarship ball, Brig. Gen. Walter Gaskin, commanding general, Training Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., provided Marine officers with critical information.
Wallace said that as the new chapter president, he looks forward to building on the foundation past NNOA members laid.
The Albany chapter had a total membership growth of 33 percent during the past year, and Wallace said he would like to continue to increase the number of members here as well, and thereby "get the word out" about the NNOA.
Wallace wants to concentrate on bringing young officers into the chapter because it will help keep the NNOA viable for the future. Young officers are the future of the sea services, he said.
Wallace also plans to emphasize additional community involvement, help young officers' professional development, and find more "homegrown talent."
The chapter also supports finding individuals who have the potential to serve as commissioned officers in the sea services. Members look for young men and women interested in becoming officers, whether they are from high school, college or the enlisted ranks.
Wallace further stated that all officers and interested civilians are encouraged to attend the monthly meetings that are held the second Wednesday of each month in the base's Staff NCO Lounge. Anyone interested in developing professional abilities and becoming involved in the community should consider joining the NNOA, said Wallace.
"We have always been recognized aboard the base and in the community for our willingness to be involved in society," said Wallace.
Retired Maj. James R. Edwards agreed with Wallace.
"It shows the Marine Corps' willingness and ability to reach out to the community and that the tradition is continuing," said Edwards.
Likewise, Wallace feels the base has been an asset by providing unconditional support and involvement.
"The base has provided outstanding command support of us," said Wallace. "Our members are committed to making a difference - not just at their jobs, but also in making a better Navy and Marine Corps and in making a difference in the community and in the lives of young people. They [NNOA members] are out there getting involved."