Marine Corps Engineer Association
November 12, 2016
Pala Casino, Resort and Spa served once again (previously 2014) as our location for the 2016 reunion and awards banquet from October 17 through October 19. Rooms were blocked for us during the scheduled dates at $99, well below the normal room charge. Menu prices were guaranteed not to exceed a 5% increase over those of our previous event. The hotel was able to commit the entire Ballroom 1A for the run of our event for our continuous use.
The Reunion Committee arrived on Sunday and Monday prior to the event in order to set up displays and coordinate final plans with the hotel staff. Audio-visual requirements were met and exceeded through use of both a portable projector and screen for the business meeting, wireless internet, wireless microphone and use of the ceiling projector and large screen for the banquet. In addition, the AV coordinator was able to provide cell telephone hookup to permit incoming calls over the ballroom system, which was used to accept the report from our Headquarters, Marine Corps contact, Mike Boyd.
Attendance in both hotel rooms booked and banquet attendance were at or above estimates made in our contract and all guaranteed minimum expenditures were met without penalty.
Reception Monday, 17 October, 1900-2200: Attendance at the reception was approximately 55 persons with 5 of our award winners present. The hors d’oeurves menu of salmon, tenderloin, stuffed mushrooms and coconut shrimp was well received by the attendees with positive comments heard about the food quality. A cash bar was provided. Members, guests and award recipients met and greeted and a welcome announcement was delivered by the president.
Business Meeting Tuesday, 18 October, 0830-1230: Only drinks and coffee were provided for this meeting with 18 attending, including Col. O’Hora, SgtMaj Marshall and BG Joe Schroedel. The business meeting began with a brief treasurer’s report and discussion of future awards program fee changes to include registration expense contained within the various event costs, followed by Col. O’Hora’s brief from Marine Corps Engineer Schools, conveying his vision of future progress with meeting engineer assignments as they will be, not as they have historically been. Having taken over command of MCES only the month before, he was still new to the task, but had been holding the temporary command slot at 2nd MLG between general officers for the past portion of the year.
A comprehensive report was provided by HQMC rep Mike Boyd with comments about new equipment on line for future implementation, engineer officer promotion percentages over the past two years, the current Code LPE chain of command and a new initiative by senior administration officials at or above military level to bring all military awards programs “in house” and out of the control of Volunteer Civilian Organizations. Mike’s explanation of the latter program was a move by legal entities to ensure that awards for active duty military were contained within the chain of command and not passed to out-of-military control for award recommendation, evaluation and selection of the best performers within MOS identities. The Executive Committee will hold an additional conference call within the next few weeks with Mike to follow up on our alternatives for future engineer award programs and our position within the determined line of responsibilities, if any.
Apparently, even if Marine Units and Commands select their own award winners in each category, MCEA may still be allowed to conduct awards ceremony and presentation activities to honor those selected for the award. This was MCEA’s recommendation to Mike in concurrence.
The meeting progressed following an agenda with Power Point notes provided by Joel Cooley in the order of presentation. Membership numbers were reviewed and future activities briefed by Joe DeHart, including an update on the Warrior Angel Program and the current status of our Associate Directors. Chaplain Paul Pankey presented our combat casualties and conducted the Honor Roll ceremony. Charlie and George reviewed the current corporate membership, reporting a decrease in both membership and participation. Joel briefed publicity efforts and was thanked for a terrific newsletter this past year. Website improvements were recognized. Tony briefed the brick program and our current support of this viable initiative. Annual awards program participation was reviewed and we reported 17 of the 23 recipients in attendance. The course sponsorship program was reported with membership packages being presented to Marines completing their education courses supported by generous contributions by our members. The first annual Sapper Squad competition reported and announced that members of the winning squad would be in attendance.
For additional details of the business meeting, please review a copy of the business meeting agenda at our web site.
Joe Schroedel, Executive Director, provided a great recap of the accomplishments of the Society of American Military Engineers along with their conference achievements, strategic plan development and the intent to include all engineer service organizations within future joint initiatives to provide ongoing education and support of active duty component engineers in every way possible. He provided copies of the 2020 SAME Strategic Plan: Towards Our Centennial for all hands attending.
We briefly reviewed 2017 Reunion plans for October in Fredericksburg, VA. During this event, we will conduct our usual tour, but will focus around visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps and our Monument rather than visiting engineer units. Accordingly, there will be no May gathering in 2017 to the Monument.
For future reunion plans, two locations have been identified to proceed forward for member survey preference. These are San Diego and San Antonio Riverwalk.
Awards Banquet, Tuesday, 1800-2400: 1800 cocktails. 1900 buffet dinner with Prime Rib carving station, chicken, salmon and mixed vegetables were a big hit with the participants, as many commented afterward. The hotel ensured there was plenty of food to feed our crowd and did so well that there were leftovers in every food group. Of particular note was the hotel’s provision of desserts in the format of centerpieces for each table with a dessert tower. These were also a big hit.
The bagpiper and color guard from 1st Combat Engineer Bn did an outstanding job for us and the Public Affairs team from Camp Pendleton provided two talented and multi-skilled Marines to cover our event, including many photos and video taping of the event. These will be posted to our web site when available. We were additionally supported by a hired photographer of our own.
Awards Banquet Programs are provided at the web site for review of the program as well as messages from the Commandant, President, Bio of our Guest of Honor and citations for each award recipient.
Our program began and ended with Invocation and Benediction from Chaplain Pankey. Brief comments were given by President Dismore and Treasurer Carlson along with an inspiring address from Colonel Daniel O’Hora. Our Guest of Honor presented awards to winners in each MOS by grade, assisted by sponsor members attending, Joe DeHart and Bill Ford. Tony Raniszewski ran our AV and recordings for us during the evening. Joe Schroedel made brief comments and presented the SAME awards to their selected winners. It was particularly gratifying to have such a high percentage of our award winners actually present to receive their plaques and member packets.
Tours: On Tuesday morning, 8 persons took advantage of our Old Town Temecula, CA tour to shop and have lunch. We had previously changed our reservation from a 29-passenger bus to 12-person van to accommodate the light registrations for this tour. The trip was reported to be successful with several of the attendees commenting on their enjoyment of the time spent together.
On Wednesday morning, 23 members and guests toured Camp Pendleton, visiting 7th Engineer Support Bn (who provided our Master Sergeant guide for the day), MWSS-372 Engineer Company, lunch at the Area 22 Mess Hall, and Law Enforcement Bn Military Police Dog training facility. The visits were widely reported to be a successful event by both attendees and our unit hosts.
Farewell Reception, Wednesday, 1900-2100: With the understanding that only about 12 people would be attending the farewell event, the president changed this event from the ballroom to his suite, requesting that anyone attending bring their own beverages and snacks. Some 26 folks reported for duty at this gathering and we enjoyed each other’s company for about 3 hours.
Total attendance: 149 Awardees: 18
Awardee Guests (sponsored): 16
Awardee Guests (paid): 14
Corporate Mbrs: 2
MCEA Guests: 10
Non-Mbrs (members’ guests/invitees): 21
Engineer NCO and below paid by sponsors (incl. MCEA paid): 33
PRELIMINARY NET FINANCIAL SUMMARY
Awards Net: $4,826: pending shipping cost on 9 packages to awardees and sponsors
Welcome Reception: ($1,222): paid attendance was 33, but food cost would have required attendance by near 100 to break even.
Business Meeting: ($117): paid attendance was 16, 7 were EC or Reunion Committee, 3 were presenters, only 6 were at-large members. AV support accounted for $89 of the “loss.”
Banquet: ($4,389): Fee too low. The hotel charged $64.90 (including gratuity) per person and we only charged $65. That left essentially nothing for the programs, the color guard, PAO, photographer, and AV support. We paid for 168 banquet meals, but only had 148 attend. For all the events we need to adjust quantities with the hotel better. Two shipping charges (for members who are non-sponsors) are still to be added.
Temecula Tour: ($138): Only 8 paid participants; need to size small tours better and make fee accordingly larger.
Units Tour: ($108): 24 paid participants; includes gift to the unit guide provided. We need to allow a bit of slack for tips and gifts when we set the fee.
Reunion Admin: ($246): Mostly due to increased shipping requirements, part of which set us up better for 2017.
Net (excluding remaining shipping costs): Loss of $1,396
Our ancillary operations (Ships’ Store, officer shirts, and fellows name tags) are always a “loser”, this year to the tune of $37.00, but that is expected. If Ship’s Store operation is not worth the time and cost, we might be better off with display items only that indicate they can be ordered from our website. We only netted $7 from sales and shipping the items from VA to TX cost $29, not including cost in shipments from Ken to Reunion or Reunion to Tony.
Summary conclusions: We need to set fees more realistically and control attendance counts (and menu as needed) to hotel at the last date possible. Not bad for an almost entirely new team, but we can do better.
MCEA used to be comprised of mostly retired (or late-career senior officers and SNCO’s). When that was the case, an east coast, west coast, elsewhere rotation made a lot of sense. But in the meantime, a lot of our members have gotten older and our initiative is to make our organization more “active duty friendly and incorporating.” As much as I (Treasurer) love San Antonio, I think we must remain realistic. Most of our SSgt and below members cannot afford to travel far. While there seems to be easing in awardee attendance support from commands, our most recent business meeting attendance suggests that the only way we can get (non-awardee) member attendance is to keep it affordable for that group. I strongly suggest that the EC consider one more year of pure east coast/west coast operation (San Diego in 2018) to attract at least a few of our junior active duty members, I do think that in the long haul, our “course sponsorship” initiative will pay off. But it may not be until those folks are at least vets if not retired. Whatever we can do to keep them “in the fold” in the meantime is worth serious consideration.