A group of 50 military officers, active and retired, recently formed the 412th and the first local chapter of the Military Officers Association of America. The charter was officially signed on Feb. 23 at the Youngstown Airbase and the group held its first official meeting on March 22.
The Mahoning and Shenango Valley Chapter got its start in October, according to newly elected chapter President Walter Duzzny, a retired Army colonel from Austintown.
"We held a meeting back in October to formally begin the local chapter of this national organization," Duzzny said.
Over the past several months, 50 local officers from all branches of the military joined in and formed the founding group for the chapter. In March, it became official as the national president and CEO of the MOAA, Retired Vice Admiral Norbert R. Ryan, made the trip to the Youngstown Air Reserve Base to present them with the charter.
Now the group is seeking to grow its membership and is starting to work towards the goals of the organization. Duzzny said one of the organization's main goals is in lobbying for national security and veterans and active duty benefits for military personnel.
"This is a nationwide organization with offices in Washington, D.C.," Duzzny said. "We have a nationwide membership of over 400,000 active and retired military officers and Congress does listen to us."
He said besides national security, the organization does a lot of work on benefits and employment. The employment issue extends beyond just helping protect the soldier who is called to duty. He said the company that loses that soldier could also be placed in hardship.
"Companies can lose a top-notch person when deployment takes place," Duzzny said. "We want to lobby for that company to help get through the deployment as well."
He said retiring veterans and jobs are going to be the key issues over the coming months and the local chapter will be doing what it can to influence government leaders in making decisions that will protect the rights of the veteran.
Besides the lobbying efforts the organization is known for, there is also local support on a couple fronts. The MOAA supports Fisher House, a national foundation that helps military families when their loved one is undergoing treatment for a disease or injury. Fisher House helps with lodging and provisions.
The MOAA also works with the ROTC and helps with scholarships, awards and recognition. Locally there is an ROTC chapter at Youngstown State University.
Since the chartering, the local chapter has picked up 10 more officers and the door is still open. The group meets once a month on the fourth Thursday at the Consolidated Activity Center at the airbase in Vienna. Guest speakers are planned at each meeting and a dinner is held prior to the meeting. At the March meeting, the guest speaker was Capt. Myles A. Frohling, USA, Commander of the Army Recruiting Office in Warren. He spoke on what is required of a recruit to join today's U.S. Army.
Among the area officers who are part of the charter membership are Duzzny; Lt. Col. Paul Stepuk of Canfield, U.S. Army , retired; Col. John Marino of Canfield, U.S. Army, retired; Capt. Brian Chadwick of Canfield, U.S. Marine Corp, retired; Lt. John Holzer of Austintown, U.S. Navy active duty; and Lt. Col. William M. Petro of Canfield, U.S. Army, retired.
For information on membership, meetings and the local chapter, contact CWO3 Oglesby at 330-568-4456 or membership chairman is Lt. Col. Don Rasile at 330-758-3348.