Protecting the Benefit ...
As Armed Forces Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) professionals head to Anaheim, Calif., for their annual Armed Forces Recreation Network (AFRN) Professional Training Institute (PTI) on Oct. 15, it is vitally important to emphasize how crucial these training opportunities are — not only for those in attendance, but to the overall quality of life of the service members and families who they serve, once they return home to their installations.
Although providing these key training opportunities during fiscally tight times continues to be a challenge, the alternative is unacceptable on so many levels, as those who deliver these vital quality-of-life programs and support services to service members and their families will lose a major element in the success of the programs: continued professional training, development and networking opportunities with their peers.
Without annual MWR training opportunities such as this, the Department of Defense compromises the very programs, support and services that have helped to build up such strong military forces during these past 10-plus years of conflict — and that have contributed greatly to the retention of troops and their families.
AFRN Incoming Chair John Lucas says he not only gains vitally important information from the PTI service briefs, which “help determine the way ahead,” but from a programming aspect, he also discovers ideas and often develops an entirely new program based on something he learned from his peers. And with the PTI Tabletop Exhibitors and NRPA Expo, he can explore new equipment and services that can help improve programs and facilities.
”Within the next six weeks, for example, our Portsmouth MWR team will be offering large programs and utilizing equipment that came directly out of last year's meeting and the NRPA Congress and Expo,” he points out. “There were several other programs that we've run in the last eight months that came from last year's training. I am looking forward to seeing how we can continue to evolve our program in the next year as a result of attending the Congress/PTI and the great ideas that come forth.”
Within the pages of this — and every — issue of Government Recreation & Fitness are examples of what MWR means to the military. For example, the successful Outdoor Recreation program at Fort Riley, Kan., is growing to meet the increased demand on post for expanded programs and facilities. And the new Warrior Zone Recreation Center there, which represents the way forward for Army recreation centers with its focus on technology, is averaging more than 400 visitors a day, providing soldiers with a place to meet and relieve stress.
In addition, several of Fort Riley's Outdoor Recreation programs — equipment rental, paintball and Warrior Adventure Quest, to name a few — are growing to meet the increased demand, showing a return on investment that goes well beyond dollars and cents — although if one wants to measure success by revenue earned, MWR programs can hold their own in that regard as well.
What Fort Riley and military installations worldwide are showing is that an investment in MWR programs and facilities — and in training the staff members who run them — provides a boost in not only revenue, but also morale and overall well-being.
“I am — and always have been — a believer in the mission of military recreation, and the difference it makes in the lives of our service members and their families,” notes AFRN Outgoing Chair Amy Cimino-Shockley. “This involvement with AFRN provides a unique perspective on the challenges each service faces and how they overcome those challenges.”
And that is why it is so important that meetings such as the AFRN PTI are not taken for granted. Without these training opportunities, we threaten the viability of a benefit that is vital to the mission-readiness of our military.