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Feds Feed Families: Reflections on Navy Community

This blog post was written by Capt. Jim Fisher (CHC) who, along with regional chaplains, coordinated the Navy’s Feds Feed Families food drive for Commander, Navy Installations Command.  Their efforts brought in 831,002 lbs. of donated food items — more than four times the Navy’s goal of 200,000 lbs. and almost 100,000 pounds more than the DoD goal of 733,800 lbs.

JOHN C. STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (Aug. 31, 2011) Civilians and Sailors assigned to the John C. Stennis Space Center load nearly a ton of food to be delivered to Christian Care Ministries in Picayune, Miss., supporting the 3rd annual Feds Feed Families food drive. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

I spent over a year in Afghanistan and learned two valuable lessons from the Mullahs  there that applies to the success of the recent Feds Feed Families summer can drive.

The first lesson dealt with communication and motivation.  The mullahs were in every village of Afghanistan and when a message needed to be communicated which would energize people into action the informal “Mullah Communication Network” could get the word across the nation within a matter of days.

Military chaplains are similar in that capacity, and that’s a valuable commodity in the Department of Defense.  Every military base has a chapel, most have a vibrant chapel community, and most have a chaplain that can “rapidly spread the word and motivate the masses, literally, across the globe within hours.”  That’s a very valuable, but sometimes overlooked, attribute of military chaplains.

But military chaplains are only part of the formula.  The second lesson I learned in Afghanistan was the symbiotic power of relational partnerships.

The Feds Feed Families program worked in the Navy because of the partnerships of people and organizations.  Consider how our teamwork contributed to success.  Navy Chaplains immediately communicated the program throughout the Navy Enterprise via the members of Navy chapels.  Public Affairs Officers formally reinforced that message through public print and media which kept the story at the forefront of the larger public.  CO-s and XO-s managed accountability and ensured command support.  Commissaries and Exchanges provided locations for collection points and provided visual advertizing.  Local businesses, like General Mills who provided truckloads of food,  often partnered with military personnel in food drives and collection of goods.

Time won’t allow me to mention everybody who played a vital role but I’d like to recognize a few as examples who illustrate my points of communication and partnership.  MidWest Region had a First Class Petty Officer, RP1 Juan Bejarano  who immediately galvanized the First Class Association into action which provided an initial driving force among all CNIC regions.  Captain Steve Blaisdell,  Chief of Staff of Region South East, is an example of maintaining management accountability throughout the campaign.  Public Affairs Officer at Naval Air Facility El Centro, Michelle Dee, captured the best quote of the campaign from Chaplain Jared Smith, who stated, “The Navy’s motto is a global force for good, and to me that starts in our backyard.”

In the backyards of America families were fed this summer because American Sailors understand the significance of sacrifice and the power of community.

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