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Why is club membership important?

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The Air Force Club Membership Drive is in full swing and I am excited about the opportunity it provides for all of us at Tinker AFB.

We have gained nearly 50 new members in the last month, and the membership drive will continue through May 31, but with less than 15 percent of the roughly 5,500 eligible military members on this installation on the current membership roll, we have a long way to go to reach the Air Force average of 25 percent. It will take about 500 new members to bring Tinker up to the Air Force standard for membership.

Looking at why Tinker lags so far behind the rest of the service in club membership, I was surprised by some of the club's demographics. I was disappointed to learn that we have a significant number of colonels and lieutenant colonels as well as chiefs and senior master sergeants -- the top of the leadership chain in most units -- who aren't Tinker Club members.

Without these leaders being members in "your" Tinker Club, it is no small wonder why our younger Airmen aren't joining -- their military role models simply aren't leading the way.

Some may question why club membership this is even important?

Your Tinker Club is where our Airman can gather, share stories and ideas, build camaraderie, be mentored and make connections that can help career development. And your Tinker Club serves an important role in promoting Air Force values, maintaining military tradition and is a deeply-rooted part of our Air Force heritage.

But many people don't understand how your Tinker Club receives financial support or why it is important for us to invest in its future. They may not realize that our 72nd Force Support Squadron manages one nonappropriated fund, and your Tinker Club is one of several NAF activities that support our airmen and their families. When members pay dues, they are not just purchasing a club membership, they are investing in the quality of life for all of us at Tinker.

When membership is low and the Tinker Club loses money, those other NAF activities have to make up the difference, diverting precious NAF resources. So, by not joining, in a very tangible way, you're not supporting our Airmen.

At our current membership levels we not only risk losing a convenient and less costly place to hold meetings, award ceremonies, dining outs and promotion ceremonies, but also a great part of our capability to retain and grow a military culture that makes us unique from any other profession.

I'm a member, and have been for more than 21 years, even when there wasn't a club nearby, because I take my commitments seriously and it's just the right thing to do, for those of us who choose to serve. If I didn't believe in it, I'm not sure I'd still be wearing the uniform today. That sense of commitment is part of what ties me to the Air Force and its heritage. As leaders, whether commanders or supervisors, all of us, across all ranks, being a club member is one very visible way we can show commitment to our "service above self," and a great way we can help our Airmen and their families.

I'm encouraging you to step off the sidelines and be an active participant in Team Tinker's future. If you're already a member -- thank you, but please don't stop there. Help lead others to "your" Tinker Club. If not a member -- please give full consideration to what club membership can mean for you and the Tinker community.

I am a Tinker Club member -- are you?