The Greater Kansas City Post has long been committed to supporting veterans in their post-service careers and working with servicemembers while they are still in uniform to inform them of the benefits of professional development and involvement in professional societies. The goal is to promote continuing education to improve their capabilities while serving in the military as well as better prepare them for their eventual transition to the A/E/C industry when that day comes.
Bricks & Clicks recently chatted with Col. Tony Hofmann, PMP, F.SAME, USA (Ret.), a member of the Greater Kansas City Post and Director of Public Works for the City of Overland Park, Kan., who has been leading the Post’s Warrior Transition Program for several years. The Post’s investments of time and resources in engaging servicemembers and veterans has been adopted at other Posts around the Society as a best practice for emphasizing the “M” in SAME.
Can you share how the Greater Kansas City Post is emphasizing the “M” in SAME and why that is important?
HOFMANN: The two areas we have specifically focused on are Professional Development and Veteran Transition. The Greater Kansas City Post first establishes a relationship with the military unit leadership on an installation. We then have an opportunity to education them about SAME and the VALUE of being part of the Society—we call it the “Value Proposition.” Then the unit selects what professional development opportunities it wants. Often, these topics are related directly to their military/wartime mission. With Veteran Transition, Post members that have made the transition provide their personal experiences and lessons learned using an organized agenda to educate transitioning veterans while also providing a key networking opportunity.
These engagements enhance a unit’s wartime skills as well as help prepare transitioning servicemembers for a successful transition out of the military—putting an emphasis on the “M” in SAME!
What are some initiatives the Post has utilized to recruit more military members?
HOFMANN: Direct engagement by reaching out to unit leadership on the military installation is key. This requires a concerted effort to go to them. That leads to face-to-face discussions of the VALUE of SAME and the opportunity for the unit to determine where the Society can then provide the most value. This may be different for each unit/unit leadership.
Our Post typically includes a social activity with each event to build stronger relationships, networking, and exposure to members of industry. Lastly, we “make the ask” for membership after they have experienced each event and seeing the value firsthand.
In terms of impact, how many soldiers has the Post connected with through these programs?
HOFMANN: We have reached well over 1,000 and counting! Since 2014, the Greater Kansas City Post has conducted transition panels at Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Many have been in collaboration with other SAME Posts.
Direct engagement by reaching out to unit leadership on the military installation is key. This requires a concerted effort to go to them. That leads to face-to-face discussions of the VALUE of SAME and the opportunity for the unit to determine where the Society can then provide the most value.
Likewise, we have led professional development opportunities annually for the Command & General Staff College (since 2017) as well as the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley (since 2016). Most recently, in December 2019, the Post gained SAME membership for a full squad of U.S. Army soldiers at Fort Riley, Kan., as a pilot to showcase the value of involvement of SAME and learn from them the areas where the Post can improve support to the military members. The soldiers are from the Equipment Support Squad, 4th Platoon, 41st Clearance Company.
What has been the reaction to SAME from the soldiers the Post has engaged with?
HOFMANN: In many cases “amazed” is a good word. Often we have found that many in uniform have not been educated on the overall VALUE and opportunities that SAME provides. We are on a relentless mission to change that and are succeeding!
Students at the Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth have even established—and sustained—a strong Student Chapter over the last couple years following an initial engagement by the Post.
What are the main benefits and opportunities military members are looking for that SAME can provide?
HOFMANN: There are several, and that is why SAME can be an ideal complement to their career enhancement. SAME can support professional development to enhance current military skills. We also can provide credentialing and licensure opportunities to benefit them both while in uniform and in transitioning out.
Lastly, interaction with members of industry can help the servicemembers better understand the potential opportunities for their post-service careers. Meeting with and learning from veterans in particular who have progressed through their career already is a huge benefit.
Can you share some ideas and lessons learned that can help other Posts get more active in recruiting and supporting military members?
HOFMANN: First and foremost, it takes a champion at the Post to reach out and establish a relationship with military units—you have to roll up your sleeves and seek the relationship!
The military folks will not generally come to you. Face-to-face makes a big impact, and that leads to their understanding the value proposition SAME offers. Following this, ask the unit what value they want SAME to provide as well as a commitment to promote these opportunities in order to maximize attendance. We are very up front on this. We will provide the resources, but expect reciprocation in the process.
As SAME begins its second century of service in 2020, what are some of the most important ways the Society can help prepare servicemembers and veterans for the A/E/C industry?
HOFMANN: We need to always remember our SAME “roots” and the vital linkage with the military. SAME will continue to change and evolve, which is essential. As we begin our second century, embracing these foundations is essential.
SAME has a great opportunity to be the professional organization of choice for servicemembers. This includes enhancing technical competencies (through credentialing assistance, workshops, and webinars). Also, assisting with veteran transition through other active members who have made the transition. Providing ample networking opportunities for additional exposure to what SAME can provide is another key area.
I think it is critical to partner with other nonprofits now and into the future. The dynamics of professional organizations has shifted and partnering on similar initiatives is critical for member interest as well as “power in collaboration.” What worked in the past may not work into the future—we cannot be “status quo” or we risk being left behind. SAME must see this and adjust accordingly to remain viable and strong for another 100 years!
For more information on the Greater Kansas City Post, visit www.same.org/gkc.