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The History of The Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association (AFTEA)
The Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association was chartered in the State of Colorado on December 22, 2003. But its roots go back ten years to May 1, 1993, when a group of retired non-commissioned officers in Colorado Springs formed the Rocky Mountain Chapter of The Retired Sergeants Major and Chiefs Association (TRSMCA).

TRSMCA was formed in 1984 as the Retired Sergeants Major Association. It later opened its membership to E-9's from all of the services, and changed its name to The Retired Sergeants Major and Chiefs Association. But the transition to an all service association of E-9's, organizational development and membership growth remained elusive . . . and as a result, TRSMCA fell short of the expectations of the members in the Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Members in the Rocky Mountain Chapter felt that an association of the top non-commissioned officers in all of the Uniformed Services should be much more than that offered by TRSMCA. They believed the organization needed to be national in scope, have an effective presence and voice in Washington, and clear organizational and membership growth strategies.

These differences in fundamental organizational issues ultimately led to a decision by the Rocky Mountain Chapter to leave TRSMCA, and pursue its long-term goals under a different flag. In a special meeting on September 3, 2003, its members voted almost unanimously to leave TRSMCA and begin in earnest a journey along a new path. The Board of Directors were:

President               Michael L. Myers, CMS USAF (Ret)

Vice President      Roger Ehrke, CSM USA (Ret)

Secretary               Albert N. Garrett III, SGM USA (Ret)

Treasurer              Oscar R. Hinson, SGM USA (Ret)

Director                 William B. DeBoer Sr., CMS USAF (Ret)

Director                 Jack Peterson, CMSgt USAF (Ret)

Director                 Sunao Tanimoto, CSM USA (Ret)

Then on December 22, 2003, the Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association (AFTEA) was chartered in the State of Colorado. These officers and directors initially served the dual role as both chapter officers and national officers on a pro-tem basis during AFTEA's organizational period.

CSM Albert G. Ybanez, USA (Ret) was the founder and principle organizer of E-9's in the Pikes Peak Region back in 1993, and he was instrumental in guiding its transformation into the Armed Forces Top Enlisted Association in 2003.

As one might suspect, it takes quite a commitment and a lot of resources to start up an association of any kind. Among the myriad of tasks that needed to be accomplished with organizing this new military and veteran's organization was the task of compliance with federal and state laws and the function of governance. AFTEA's Parliamentarian, SGM George W. Miles, USA (Ret), very experienced in such matters, set about submitting all of the proper forms to accomplish these tasks. He chaired a committee to develop AFTEA's By-Laws, along with committee participants SGM Oscar Hinson and CMSgt Larry Thomas, with CSM Albert Ybanez acting as an advisor.

CMSgt Daniel J. O'Connell, USAF (Ret) chaired the committee to develop the dues structure and methods of payment, along with committee participants CSM Christy, SGM Hinson and CSM Ybanez.

The inspiration behind the design of the AFTEA logo was SGM Albert N. Garrett III, USA (Ret). CSM Ybanez and CMSgt O'Connell were also contributors. The logo is in the shape of a pentagon, representing the five branches of military service. There are portions of five white stripes and five red stripes. There is a blue field with nine silver stars showing, symbolic of the E-9 rank. The eagle represents the "high flying, all-seeing, master of his domain" of all enlisted persons that attain the highest enlisted rank. Later, the logo was incorporated into a member's coin which is praised by all who see it.

We developed the slogan "Pride, Dedication and Service", contributed by AFTEA Chaplain CMSgt Calvin Hamilton. We have modified that slogan slightly and claim copyright privileges to "Pride, Dedication & Service".

The first AFTEA National Board of Directors was elected on September 28, 2005, and they were sworn in on October 26, 2005. They were:

President               Albert G. Ybanez, CSM USA (Ret)

Vice President      Michael L. Myers, CMSgt USAF (Ret)

Vice President      Roger J. Ehrke, CSM USA (Ret)

Secretary               Albert N. Garrett III, SGM USA (Ret)

Treasurer              Oscar R. Hinson, SGM USA (Ret)

Director                  Oliver W. Estes, SGM USA (Ret)

Director                  Daniel J. O'Connell, CMSgt USAF (Ret)

Director                  Jose L. Trujillo, CSM USA (Ret)

Director                  Alan J. Wenzel, CMSgt USAF (Ret)

It was this leadership that would position AFTEA to achieve its vision of one powerful voice of top non-commissioned officers in Washington.

The Vision
It was the vision of this leadership that AFTEA would represent member's interests in the Congress, the Administration, the Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs. . . that it would seek to educate the public and members of Congress about the Uniformed Services and its most important asset, its people.

It was their vision that AFTEA would promote improved quality-of-life and economic fairness that would support the well-being of the men and women of America's Uniformed Services and their families . . . and to give voice to members' concerns about military pay, health care, pension and disability, survivor benefits, education, housing, child care, and other quality-of-life programs.

And it was their vision that AFTEA would advocate a strong national defense that will protect the security of the United States . . . and to support a defense budget that will provide modern and sufficient equipment so that our military personnel can safely and effectively accomplish their mission.

The leadership believed that the time had come for the top non-commissioned officers of all of the Uniformed Services to come together in AFTEA . . . as one powerful voice in Washington . . . and use the experience and expertise they gained in the Armed Forces and voice their opinions.

Membership Development
Membership development and growth was a paramount goal of AFTEA in its formative years. Having experience in leadership positions in other military associations, then President CMSgt Michael Myers, assisted by CSM Albert Ybanez, chose to outsource the functions of association management, administration and membership development functions to AMS Management Services Corporation, an Association Management Company in the Washington D.C. area.

AMS undertook the engagement, and by mid-2005 began work in earnest to develop strategy and to implement programs for the association. A formal contract was subsequently put into place effective on January 1, 2006. Major initial objectives were to:

• Develop a membership information management system

• Acquire and sign up new members

• Create an association newsletter and web-site

• Develop legislative affairs and activities in Washington

Implementation of AFTEA's membership database and membership information management system was completed in the third quarter of 2005.

The association's bimonthly newsletter, the "Alliance", was developed and the first issue for September/October 2005 was mailed to members. And, AFTEA's web-site came online in the first quarter of 2006.

Direct mail was chosen as the vehicle that would be used initially to recruit new members. The first new member acquisition direct mail promotion was mailed on July 1, 2005 to 24,759 prospective members. This very first effort by AFTEA to recruit members from outside the Pikes Peak Region was wildly successful and far exceeded expectations. From this mailing, 979 E-9's joined AFTEA and brought in dues revenue of $74,327.

AFTEA conducted one additional promotion in 2005, adding 462 new members. It ended the year 2005 with a total of 1,652 members.

Two additional direct mail promotions have been conducted in 2006, adding 1,420 new members. At mid-year 2006 AFTEA had 3,004 total members.

Government Relations
On May 24, 2006, AFTEA's Washington D.C. Representative, CMSgt Mark Olanoff, USAF (Ret), testified before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. His statement expressed AFTEA's views about the FY2007 Department of Defense budget as it related to the imbalance between operational and personnel costs. The statement focused on the Pentagon's choice to give weapons and hardware acquisitions higher priority in the FY2007 budget than men and women in uniform. And it questioned the Pentagon's efforts to create budget savings from shifting sharply higher health care costs to retirees to help fund weapons acquisitions and other needs.

On July 5, 2006, National President Albert Ybanez dispatched a letter to all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives stating AFTEA's opposition to a provision of the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act that would have a serious impact on military retirees in second careers who use their TRICARE benefit as their primary insurance plan. That provision, if enacted, would prohibit employers of military retirees from paying the cost of TRICARE deductibles and co-pays if the military retiree chose TRICARE as his or her primary health insurance rather than the employer's plan. The bill would also prohibit the employer from paying the cost of a TRICARE supplemental insurance for military retiree employees who choose to use TRICARE Standard as their primary insurance. This provision would change nearly 40 years of precedent and goes against the national trend of providing employees more flexibility in choosing their benefits.

On July 19, 2006, AFTEA took a position and supported the U.S. - India Nuclear Initiative. CMSgt John P. May, USAF (Ret) represented AFTEA at a Press Conference in Washington D.C., along with a number of members of the Administration and Congress and representatives of several other military related and veteran organizations.

In the short period of AFTEA's existence the organization has most successfully executed its plans to give voice to the top non-commissioned officers of all of the Uniformed Services. There has been tremendous interest by top non-commissioned officers across the country to speak out, from our experience, about national security and military and veteran related issues.

Edited by:
SGM Albert N. Garrett III, USA (Ret)
Secretary and Historian


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