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AFSA voice of enlisted Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Beth Orlen
  • 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
He's gone head-to-head with some of the most influential people in the country, but for retired Chief Master Sgt. John "Doc" McCauslin, it's just another part of his day.

As the international president of the Air Force Sergeants Association, Chief McCauslin takes his job seriously.

The Air Force relies on people and if chief and his organization can make things easier for them to concentrate on their job, then they will do it, he said.

"We need to take care of our enlisted people," he said.

When the York, Penn., native joined the Air Force in 1955, there were no representatives lobbying for the rights of enlisted members, he said.

That all changed in 1961 when AFSA was founded as a federally chartered, non-profit organization representing the professional and personal interests of enlisted personnel. The organization started fighting for things like housing, medical and pay issues, things that often got left behind or were inefficient.

Chief McCauslin began to understand how this organization could help him and his fellow Airmen, so in 1977 he joined the organization as a lifetime member and became active within the organization - first as a general member and then as a Division I Communications Committee member and the Division 16 Ramstein Air Base, Germany Chapter. In 2003, he was elected to his first term as the AFSA International Retired/Veterans Affairs Trustee, followed by his current position in 2005.

This former 5th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Europe command chief master sergeant works to better the lives of the more than 135,000 active duty and retired enlisted members of the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, their family members, former enlisted personnel and other interested parties.

"I could see how it directly affected my life, and all Air Force enlisted members can't be in Washington, D.C. (This) is my way to give something back to the Air Force," he answered as to why he is away from home more than 250 days out of the year without receiving so much as a paycheck.

On any given day, Chief McCauslin is either making phone calls or appearances to fellow and potential members, speaking with a governor about National Guard issues, meeting with a Congressman or Senator to lobby for or against a bill before them, or exchanging e-mails and letters with other policy makers. The time is always filled, but in the 30 years he has been in the AFSA there has always been time to celebrate the successes.

Last year the AFSA was successful in 115 issues that directly impact enlisted members, he said, some of which people don't even hear about.

Recently the group was instrumental in squashing a bill that proposed changing the retirement age for National Guard members to 62. (Currently Guardsmen can draw their retirement checks at age 60.) AFSA members banded together and were able to prevent the bill from passing.

One of the many benefits the group is working on getting approved involves the Montgomery G.I. Bill. Right now Airmen can only get the benefit when they enter the military and if they don't use it within 10 years of getting out of the service the money is gone.

The AFSA is pushing for an open enrollment period, the ability to transfer the benefit to someone else (such as a child) and extending the cut off period to at least 15 years, said the chief.

With these pretty far-reaching items, some people might not think that the AFSA can help them personally, but that's not true, said Master Sgt. Buddy Gerhardt, the Little Rock Air Force Base AFSA, Razorback Chapter vice president.

"Every cent they make must be spent on the base and in the surrounding community," said Chief McCauslin.

From scholarships and Thanksgiving baskets to Airmen Leadership School graduation awards and volunteering hundreds of hours to on- and off-base organizations, the members of Chapter 658 touch thousands of lives in and around the Little Rock AFB area.

"We are a busy chapter," said Sergeant Gerhardt. But being busy doesn't always translate into members.

Less than half of the eligible people on Little Rock AFB alone are AFSA members.

"It's easy to make excuses as why you can't be a member," said Sergeant Gerhardt, "but people need to understand they can be as active or inactive as the need to be."

"There's strength in numbers," said Chief McCauslin, and that strength can be as simple as one letter or phone call to a state representative.

"We need to take care of our enlisted people," he said. "If we don't take care of ourselves, who will?"

For more information about AFSA, call Sergeant Gerhardt at 987-1688. Information can also be found on the Internet at or by calling toll-free at 1-800-638-0594.