Outgoing Missouri National Guard Association President William P. Johnson hands with the president's gavel to Lt. Col. Larry D. Crowder at the association's 65th annual conference Saturday at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield, Mo. (Bill Phelan photo)
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Lt. Col. Larry D. Crowder, of Jefferson City, was installed as president of the Missouri National Guard Association at the organization's 65th annual conference, which concluded Saturday at the University Plaza Convention Center.
Crowder, the commanding officer of the Missouri Army National Guard Recruit and Retention Battalion, accepted the gavel from outgoing president William P. Johnson.
The National Guard Association is primarily a lobbying organization that represents the Missouri Army and Air National Guard before the State Legislature and Congress. But Crowder has higher hopes for the association in terms of both membership and its mission.
"We have to operate differently," Crowder told conference attendees. "We have to get reengaged in Missouri communities."
Crowder suggested the association get involved in National Guard programs already in place to make association membership more valuable.
"We already have a great marketing plan with the University of Missouri so how can we work the association into this," Crowder asked. "Maybe reduced rates at the book store or how about getting some college tuition compensation. That's where we need to be. For too long the association has looked outside the state at the big picture. Instead, we need to see what we can do for a Soldier in Dexter, Mo."
Pointing out that association membership was nearly mandatory in the past, Crowder laid out a plan to attract new members without "browbeating."
"Picture this," he said. "A new Soldier or Airman walks into an armory and they meet an association representative who sits down with them and offers them $1,000 in free insurance. Then they direct them to the National Guard Association web site where they can find the location of a (restaurant) or hotel that offers a discount on drill weekends. Or better yet, how about a video that shows how to fill out your college tuition assistance forms. When we start doing these things we will have a quality association. We will be able to sell the association without having to sell it."
Making Guard Association membership more valuable said Crowder will create "a tradition of membership."
"With a grassroots effort we can get this done," Crowder said. "All we have to do is let people know that we have a great product out there and that the association is doing great things for them."
Crower's address topped off the three-day conference that included a golf tournament, business and committee meetings, a banquet, and a performance by the St. Louis-based Missouri Air National Guard Band, Sidewinder.
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