Giving back to those who serve: volunteerism and philanthropy at the Aberdeen Proving Ground
How does volunteerism help innovators advance the Army's mission? Why are small businesses critical for innovation? And how does a prominent volunteer organization serve military families?
Colonel Robert Gutjahr (Retired) and Matthew Wilson, elected officers of the Major General Harry Greene, Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) chapter, filled us in. Their answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Why do you volunteer for AUSA?
Gutjahr - I've been a member of AUSA since I graduated from West Point in 1978. So, I've been a member for 45 years. I truly believe in what AUSA has done and continues to do for our soldiers and Department of the Army civilians.
Wilson - I'm giving back to the community that has supported my career and the soldiers who support our country.
How do you and AUSA support the Army?
Gutjahr - AUSA’s mission is to educate those with a connection to the Army with programs, products, resources, and events. We inform members, Congress and the American public about issues affecting the Army, and connect the Army with industry partners at the national, regional, and chapter levels.
There’s certainly a philanthropic aspect to this work, and for the APG chapter, our largest annual fundraiser is the Fisher House Gala. With the funds we raise at events like this, there's not a check we won't write for soldiers, civilians, retirees, or veterans in need. We have an extremely robust treasury, and we're generous with that treasury.
For example, last year, we had several soldiers in one of the commands with young families who did not have enough money for Thanksgiving. So, we provided the soldiers and their families with Thanksgiving dinners.
Your AUSA chapter was named “Most Impressive Chapter in Second Region" and was awarded 23 streamers. What is the significance of these honors?
Gutjahr - AUSA has 122 Chapters, and, of course, if you're in the Army, you're going to be competitive. You want your chapter to do well as a point of pride and as a demonstration that you're accomplishing your mission in your area.
AUSA has different means of measuring success for chapters, but they're based on membership, how many community partnerships you have, and your support to the community. If you're making a difference, you're awarded streamers, which, in the Army, represents accomplishment. You get a streamer for each one of the areas in which you've made a difference.
As a result of that and because of all of our work within the community, such as with Fisher House Foundation, Stop Soldier Suicide, and our work within our soldier program areas, we were awarded by the AUSA Second Region as the most impressive chapter — which was also very nice.
How does Leidos's involvement with AUSA aid innovation and technology development?
Wilson - In our monthly AUSA luncheons, senior Army leaders present their vision — where they're going from a technology perspective. That helps companies like Leidos align investments, research and development, and approach to doing business with those portions of the Army.
They're also great places for cross-company collaboration. I can't tell you how many times somebody I've met at an AUSA event winds up being a partner on an opportunity we pursue together.
Further, these events are venues for small business collaboration. Small businesses sometimes have one business development person in the whole company. I've been in that role. And when you're the only business development person, you can only go so many places and do so many things. So, the luncheons are great venues for meeting a whole bunch of people at once and hearing what senior Army leaders have to say.
Why are small businesses important for innovation at the Army and Leidos?
Wilson - In any technology area you can think of, there are small businesses with key capabilities, from biometrics to robotics to hardware to sensors. I think that variety is what the DOD recognizes as a force multiplier. And they want large, trusted integrators like Leidos to go out and find those emerging technologies and bring them together. Combined with its innovations, companies like Leidos then develop solutions to complex problems through their ability to integrate things that nobody thought of putting together before.
How can others get involved in AUSA?
Gutjahr - We have a very good program for large and small businesses to participate. It's called the community partner program. Being an AUSA community partner is only $175 a year.
Our chapter pays for the first year's dues for community partners, so if you wanted to join as a startup business, we would waive the $175 fee for the first year, and you'd become a community partner just by filling out the form. It's how we grow our relationships with the small businesses in our market.
To learn more, visit ausa.org/chapters/major-general-harry-greene-aberdeen-chapter.
For more information about Leidos innovations for the Army and other service branches, visit leidos.com/defense.