Land and Maritime Toastmasters celebrate another successful year

By Craig M. Rader DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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For the twelfth consecutive year, Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime’s Toastmasters Club has earned the President’s Distinguished Club Award.

This award represents the highest level of Distinguished Club recognition, requiring a minimum of nine out of 10 goals to be met during the evaluation year.

Land and Maritime’s club was also one of only five clubs in its multi-state district to accomplish all 10 of the annual organizational goals – and has done so more often than any other club in the region.

Chartered in 1961, Toastmasters International A.G.O.I.S.S.I. (A Group of Individuals Seeking Self Improvement) Club 3500 has been improving the leadership and communication skills of its members for more than half a century.

Michael McCoy, the club’s vice president of public relations, said it’s a common misconception that Toastmasters is only about public speaking.

“Toastmasters provides the tools to be a better communicator in a variety of situations,” McCoy said. “It provides a process for developing confidence to communicate on a number of different social levels – such as at church, with family members, in one-one-one conversations and in professional situations.

“And outside of that, there is still so much more. We also have activities that teach leadership skills such as project management and organizational development.”

McCoy added that the club’s 38 members represent a diverse group of employees and is open to everyone regardless of previous experience with Toastmasters or public speaking. He says the club offers a unique opportunity for members to interact with junior-level employees, mid-tier managers, and senior leaders at DLA Land and Maritime in an environment filled with positive reinforcement.

McCoy, a Land and Maritime Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist, said the Toastmasters program offers a progression curriculum which gradually introduces new challenges. Those tasks are structured to develop a speaker’s confidence and comfort levels while they deliver their presentations.

He said once each member completes the steps outlined in the Competent Communicator Manual, they can work towards more advanced milestones.

As members develop their communication skills, they are offered assistance through a mentorship program which pairs experienced members with those who are new to the club.

The benefits are twofold – the mentee gains valuable advice and guidance from an established communicator, while the mentor builds upon their own leadership abilities.

Club President Christopher Hancock said the commitment to self-improvement through mentorship inside Club 3500 is a testament to the cultural attitudes shared by DLA Land and Maritime as a whole.

“The opportunities for professional development and the emphasis on employee well-being is something I noticed right away when I started working at Land and Maritime,” Hancock said. “This organization cares about its people and its culture, and I see those same core philosophies in the Toastmasters here.”

Hancock, a DLA electronics engineer, said he was hesitant to join Toastmasters at first, due to some misconceptions about the group as well as his own underestimation of its potential value. He said it didn’t take long to realize how much the club had to offer.

“It’s not often you’ll find an organization such as this that is so results driven,” he said. “More importantly, what I’ve learned is the results themselves are only a small part of the reward – the journey itself is a transformative experience, and that’s where I’ve found the most value.

For the 2015-2016 club year, multiple A.G.O.I.S.S.I. members received awards for individual educational accomplishments and for fulfilling requirements to advance to higher performance levels. The club also earned a Smedley Award for increasing its membership throughout the year.

These achievements, combined with other community outreach and member programs contributed to A.G.O.I.S.S.I. earning its “10 for 10 club” status for the seventh consecutive year.

“Ultimately, this club encourages people to overcome fears,” Hancock said. “In order to overcome the fear of speaking to others, you must have an environment that allows you to trust those around you.

The Toastmasters club at DLA Land and Maritime offers a safe and respectful place to overcome those fears, and I can’t think of a better place that does that than right here.”