SAME Posts thrive where collaborative engineering efforts in support of national security are needed. While the majority of this interaction occurs domestically, international Posts also provide an important connection to the A/E/C community, both for service-members and civilians living overseas, and for residents stateside whose work is focused abroad.
Established in 1996, the Rhein-Main Post in Germany has served as a critical linkage for the A/E/C community supporting U.S. interests in Europe. Bricks & Clicks recently chatted with Scott Turygan and Charysse Knotts, F.SAME, on the Post’s activities and events, unique challenges of being overseas, and hopes for the future.
Bricks & Clicks: Can you give us a brief overview of the Rhein-Main Post and its programs?
Rhein-Main: Rhein-Main is located in the City of Wiesbaden, Germany, where the headquarters of both U.S. Army Europe and Africa and the Europe District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are based. Many Post members live and work around the city, but we also have members and frequent visitors that coincide with the Army’s areas of responsibility for engineer projects, such as Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, Bavaria, Poland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Turkey. We even have active members who reside in the continental United States, but value our Post because their projects are primarily based in Europe.
We interpret our Post’s mission as advancing the technical knowledge of both the public and private sectors and uniting them in the collective defense of NATO interests against man-made and natural hazards.
Rhein-Main focuses its annual programming around four primary goals:
- Industry-government engagement programs that improve our collaborative work efforts.
- TechTalks that advance our engineering and management knowledge.
- Fun events that offer networking and build solidarity between members.
- Support to STEM and Young Professionals initiatives that foster our community’s emerging engineers.
Our most popular event is the USACE Europe District Programs Overview, which provides the public and private sectors an overview of the upcoming year’s programmed budget, projected contracting plans, upcoming projects, updates on high-profile initiatives, and unique operating conditions and challenges for select countries across the area of responsibility. Held each January, the briefings provide valuable insight for how to posture resources to be best prepared for the upcoming year. Additionally, it facilitates industry-government engagement and often highlights challenges that we further incorporate into our Post’s programs for the coming year.
We also host an annual golf outing that raises the majority of the funds we contribute to local students for scholarships, STEM activities such as RoboWarriors and summer camps.
Our Post typically has one event each month that is a mix of industry-government engagement and TechTalks and addresses current needs and interests of our members. We recently hosted multiple events that assisted the local implementation of USACE’s new Task Order Requirement Notification process and provided locally specific TechTalks.
Bricks & Clicks: How has the Post delivered value to members throughout the pandemic?
Rhein-Main: Our Post quickly adapted to the dynamic pandemic environment and managed to still provide our planned monthly programs: 11 in 2020 and 12 in 2021. Post leaders creatively applied new technologies to host meetings virtually and using hybrid formats—volunteering additional time and personal resources to develop, test, and run live-broadcasted hybrid events.
We sometimes had to resolve technical problems that arose during events, but we continuously revised our process from each lesson learned. The hybrid events were a great success, reaching a wide audience across our huge European Region. Recordings are stored on our website for future viewing.
Bricks & Clicks: What are some of the unique challenges of the Post?
Rhein-Main: Our biggest challenge is membership and participation from the local U.S. servicemember and civilian community who are assigned to Europe on three-year rotations. The majority of our active members are private sector who have long, deep connections to the local industry and value the Post’s mission.
We are working to increase active participation of public sector members by hosting the meetings at a convenient location and time. We also have U.S. government civilians serving as Post officers, which sets a precedent of value and spreads awareness to their communities.
Bricks & Clicks: What would you say are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing your members in the short term?
Rhein-Main: Networking has been the biggest challenge since we moved to virtual and hybrid events. Industry-government engagement is less effective in a virtual environment. However, we have seen increased attendance for all our technical programs when offered virtually.
COVID provided opportunities to reach our remote OCONUS and U.S. members when we had to pivot to virtual meetings. This increased participation tremendously. We gained membership and Sustaining Members when we were able to offer a broader range of programs virtually. We then pivoted to hybrid meetings when restrictions permitted, in order to increase networking opportunities.
The concern as we move back to in-person events is that many people don’t want to travel if they can get the content from home. This means the networking engagement has decreased, but we hope temporarily. We continue to try to find ways to bring forward value.
Bricks & Clicks: How is the Post contributing to the 2025 SAME Strategic Plan?
Rhein-Main: Most important for our Post is Goal 1, Strengthen Industry-Government Engagement. Each year for the last three years, we have incorporated three to six industry-government engagement events in our programs, such as Industry Days with USACE, panel discussions with government and industry on topics relevant in Europe, and joint technical presentations from industry and government.
Equally important to our Post is Goal 3, Develop Leaders for the Profession. We solicit and recruit exceptional technical presenters and offer PDH certificates to government and industry members.
Every year we lay out a plan to make sure we address Goal 2, Build and Sustain Resilient Communities; Goal 4, Enrich the STEM Pipeline for the Nation; and Goal 5, Prepare Servicemembers and Veterans for the A/E/C Industry. We accomplish this through outreach, partnering with the local DODEA schools, offering technical presentations, and supporting leader development and mentoring programs.
Bricks & Clicks: What advice would you give to other international Posts?
Rhein-Main: The most important piece of advice is to be flexible. While for Posts in the United States it is normal to have a standing date for meetings, we found we could plan more events, recruit panels and speakers, and get better engagement when we were more accommodating and flexible to everyone’s schedules.
Another practice we implemented a couple years ago is a Europe-wide Post NewsFlash to let members know what is happening at the other Posts in the Europe Region. By collaborating with both Kaiserslautern and United Kingdom, we have greater participation in our hybrid events. Together, we also have been able to offer several joint events that our members can attend.
Lastly, we believe it is important to have fun! Our annual Scholarship Fundraiser Golf Tournament has a theme each year where everyone dresses up and our members come out to network and have a good time (and play a little golf).
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Post Best Practices shares insights, expertise, and lessons learned from SAME’s Posts around the world. If your Post has conducted a recent event or accomplishment that you’d like highlighted in a future issue of TME, let us know by submitting your news at the link below.