POST OFFICERS DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES
“To you, my comrade has entrusted a very important duty, that of teaching and protecting the cardinal principles of The American Legion throughout your entire Post. To you is entrusted the supervision of the duties of all other officers of the Post. To you may come the needy and the distressed and it is your duty to see that no worthy comrade is turned away without full justice. It is your duty to see that Freedom is ever the watchword of those with whom you may come in contact. Loyalty to your Post, to its membership, to the state, and to the National Organization, are obligations that you now assume. You are more than the presiding officer for meetings. You are guided by the Constitution and by the decisions of the Post as a body, yet the responsibility for the success of the year’s program is largely on your shoulders. You must initiate and carry through programs to completion. You must thoroughly familiarize yourself with the policies and traditions of your Post and of The American Legion. By your sincere acceptance and earnest performance of these duties, may the great trust which your comrades have reposed in you be justified. To you, I extend the congratulations of the Department, and I wish you well as you assume the responsibilities of your office. I present to you a copy of the Post Officer’s Guide and Manual of Ceremonies to serve as your guide during the coming year.”
Yes, Commander, the charge you accepted is broad and difficult. How you respond will determine to a large degree the standing of The American Legion among your associates and within the community.
Your own ability, the help you obtain from District and Department officers, the information contained in this Guide, and the help you will get from the Post officers who form your team, all combine to make the performance of your job possible.
That you have ability is recognized by your election to the office of Post Commander. This ability must have been accompanied by desire or you would not have accepted the office. Everything that follows is provided to assist you to use the ability that you now have and to develop new skills so that your desire to see the Post prosper will become a reality.
As you look to the overall operation of the Post, you realize that you have stepped to another level. You may feel that the step is too high, but as you proceed, following the guidelines suggested, you will develop the organization and leadership among others that will make your year as Commander the most rewarding of your life.
Planning Post Operations for the Coming Year
It’s a rare group of new Post officers who take office without enthusiasm and a desire for a successful year. In the charge you accepted at your installation, you were entrusted with the supervision of the duties of all other officers of the Post. This does not mean that you will discourage them from using initiative and developing new ideas. What it does mean is that you will be judge by the effectiveness of your officers.
There are many ways to determine whether a Post Commander and their officers are enjoying a successful year. Judgments of the worth of a Post are made by the members, the community, and by The American Legion itself. Like it or not, a gain or loss in membership is the measure most often used.
Actually, the membership record is a pretty reliable barometer of what your Post is doing. An active Post, where the members enjoy themselves, often creates a “word of mouth” membership campaign that works almost automatically. The members are proud to belong. It’s the most natural thing in the world for them to talk “Legion” to their friends, neighbors, relatives, and business associates. Since they like belonging to the Legion, they want their friends to get in on a good thing, too.
However, whether it shows or not, a great deal of planning has probably gone into every successful membership campaign. But, before salespeople can sell a product, they have to have a product. If they are going to do a good job, they have to have a good product–something that people want and will value. The programs, social activities, chances for making new friendships, sometimes the Post home itself–these are what a Legion salesman has to sell. How we build or get this product is the subject we would like to discuss with you.
First Vice Commander
“To you is given the responsibility of active cooperation between yourself and the Commander. Particularly should you interest yourself in the membership of the Post. You should be assisted by the most active and devoted members. No single factor has so important an influence on the Post’s success as membership. You will be the exponent of means of safeguarding the honor of the Flag of our Country. To you are committed to these endeavors with the expectation that you shall fulfill each and every one of them. You are the teacher of ‘Democracy’.”
In the majority of Posts, a First and Second Vice Commander are elected, with membership the primary concern of the First Vice Commander.
Frequently the success or failure of the membership record during his/her year determines the chances of advancing to the Commandership the following year. In a few of our Posts, one or two “tigers” (membership go-getters) will secure the big majority of the dues, but the possibility of death, illness, or a change of residence makes for a weak foundation on which a Vice Commander and the Post are staking the Post’s future. While each Post is different, any membership campaign should cover certain fundamentals. Look at the methods used in the past. Were they successful? Do they need updating? Have new procedures been developed that would improve the plans now being used?
In a successful Post, a new Post Commander is going to contact the Post officers and committee chairs right after being elected, either individually or at a special meeting, to lay out a general plan of operation for the entire year. This is the time when the membership plan should also be made.
Any plan should answer the four W’s.
WHERE? Where do you want to go? What’s the objective? (Or, for a membership campaign, how many members do you want?)
WHAT? What steps have to be taken to reach the objective?
WHO? Who’s going to do all the things that have to be done in each of the steps that have to be taken to reach the goal?
WHEN? When is the work going to be done?
Only you and the members of your Post know where you want to go, or how many members you want. But the steps you have to take to get there are very much the same in every Post. If you can answer the following questions for your Post and for your membership campaign, you have your job analyzed and know what steps have to be taken to reach your goal:
1. Mailed dues notices will bring in about 85 percent of your current members’ renewals. Who is going to contact those few who do not respond to mailed dues notices?
2. How are dropouts to be reinstated?
3. How are you going to get usable information on prospective members; how are they to be contacted; by whom; and how are those selected to be taken into your Post?
4. What publicity will be needed?
5. Who can be counted on to work at membership?
6. What awards or special recognition will be given?
7. What special events will be tied in with membership, such as Veterans Day, team competition, contests with other Posts, Legion Birthday observance, etc.?
This can be the agenda for the first Membership Committee meeting. (See Duties of Committee.)
Membership may be the primary assignment of a Vice Commander, but during a normal Legion year, the Vice Commander will have many other duties. He/she should become familiar with the ceremonial protocol for regular meetings. The chances are excellent that he/she will have to conduct one or more meetings during the year. Knowing how to prepare a meaningful and fruitful agenda is very important, as well as a good experience. The Vice Commander must be ready to fill in for the Commander upon a moment’s notice.
Second Vice Commander
“Into your helpful hands are placed the important responsibilities of assisting the Commander with all duties. Particularly you should be interested in patriotic observances of all kinds, in developing Post activities, and in the entertainment features which mark all meetings. Help to observe strict tolerance among your members on all political, religious, and civic matters. The applications of Justice will be your particular concern.”
Is yours an average Post? If so, many of the members joined The American Legion because of the social and recreational benefits they expected to receive. What is more, many of the members-to-come will also join for the same reason.
Yes, the Second Vice Commander does have a job—an important job. The responsibility is to build the “I-like-my-Post-because . . .” atmosphere that finds a lot of Legionnaires having fun while still doing the work of the Legion.
The Commander will depend on the Second Vice Commander to provide the programs that spice up the meetings and attract attendance. The social calendar must always be filled several months in advance with activities that will bring out the active members, as well as those who are just card-carrying Legionnaires.
One of the first duties should be to contact other veteran and civic groups so that each patriotic holiday and observance receives the attention it deserves. He/She will be concerned with the pageantry so closely associated with the Legion.
The Second Vice Commander may not be in charge of the color guard or firing squad but must promote it. He/She might not have a part on the initiation team but should make sure one is functioning.
In the pursuit of “Justice,” the Second Vice Commander will be concerned with the welfare of all fellow veterans and will be interested in the work of the veterans’ affairs and rehabilitation committee. The Second Vice will need to know if the economic committee is functioning. The Second Vice Commander plays a dual role of fun and seriousness, which so typifies The American Legion.
“You are the keeper of the money and in you is reposed the financial policy of the Post. To you is given charge of the year’s budget and to you is given the duty of the payment of all obligations when proper authorization has been given for such payment. Your position is an important one, demanding integrity and honesty. Your election to this office signifies that your comrades have implicit trust in you. Guard well that trust.”
The Finance Officer must be a person of proven integrity and experience in handling financial affairs. The Post is dependent on finance, just as any other organization, and will do well to accept expert advice in formulating and administering its financial policy.
The Finance Officer usually serves as the chair of the finance committee and is in charge of all receiving and disbursing of Post funds. The Post Adjutant, in all matters relating to finance, should carry on the work in close correlation with the Finance Officer. Both officers must be covered by an adequate bond. Department headquarters should be consulted on this for blanket bond arrangement.
Post accounting system utilizes Quicken Accounting Software to meet the requirements of Legion Posts in maintaining a correct and permanent membership and finance record. Some knowledge of bookkeeping or accounting will be required as it relates to the Post accounting system. Post Adjutant and Finance Officer should be familiar with Quicken and all required financial reports needed for Post Audits.
Be prompt in remitting National and Department dues, along with the Department Record Card, to Department Headquarters. Note all payments and other transactions on your Post Membership Register.
“To you is given the spiritual leadership of this Post. You will, I know, lend dignity and respect to your office. You should be in close confidence with the Commander and the other officers of this Post and should attend all meetings of the Post. You should be ready upon occasion to take your part in the initiation of new members, the dedication of halls, monuments of colors, and the funeral services for a comrade. All such ceremonies are made more commemorative by the use of our ritual. Into your keeping, we place the spirit of comradeship of this Post. May harmony and unity prevail.”
The Chaplain need not necessarily be a clergyman but must be a person capable of moral and intellectual leadership and one who gives dignity and respect to the office. The Chaplain should be in close touch with the Commander and other officers of the Post and should attend all meetings of the Post and Executive Committee. The leadership in many of the Post’s activities belongs of right to the Chaplain, and when this office is filled by the right kind of person, the usefulness of the Post to the community will be greatly increased.
The Manual of Ceremonies gives an important place to the Chaplain in the conduct of meetings, in the observance of patriotic occasions, funeral services, and dedication ceremonies. On these occasions, the Chaplain is the moral leader.
The Chaplain should cooperate with the Post Historian on graves registration work and inspire the Post to its full duty in seeing that graves are decorated on Memorial Day. Besides officiating when requested at funerals of members, the Chaplain can be of service to bereaved families of Post members.
The Chaplain may serve as chair of the Post’s Veterans Administration Voluntary Services (VAVS) Committee which coordinates the volunteer endeavors of the membership of nearby VA hospital facilities. The sick should be visited at the hospital or home. For more information on VAVS, write the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, The American Legion, Washington Office.
The American Legion Service to God and Country handbook, available through Department headquarters, gives a history of this program and offers working aids for the Post Chaplain and religious emphasis committee.
“You are the sentinel or tiler, the outer guard of this Post. You will guard especially against the loss of one of The American Legion’s greater possessions—our deep and abiding spirit of comradeship. You will learn the identity of and introduction to the Commander all visiting comrades and guests of the Post. You are responsible that no one shall remain a stranger in our midst. Be ready at all times to assist your Commander. Into your hands is given charge of the stand of colors which you will properly display at all Post meetings and on ceremonial occasions.”
The Sergeant-at-Arms should know how to arrange the meeting hall and should assist the Post Commander and Adjutant in the preliminary arrangements for the meeting, including custodian of the colors and should be in charge of the color detail during the presentation and retirement ceremonies of the colors. The Sergeant-at-Arms is the flag etiquette person and should be well informed on proper flag display and procedures used in operating a meeting and should play a leading part in the Post color guard, burial detail, and the other pageantry that is a part of The American Legion.
There is another duty—one that has a tremendous impact on the Post’s image, its membership, and its relationship with the members. Every Legionnaire wants to be part of the group. This is particularly important for that new Legionnaire attending his first few meetings. The Sergeant-at-Arms must make certain new members are welcomed, introduced, and made to feel they are important to the Post.
A welcome committee should be standard for every Post. The Sergeant-at-Arms is the logical person to chair such a committee. The members of this committee must welcome new members and guests, make sure they are introduced, and keep the Commander advised as to who should be acknowledged. This committee can also be used to encourage present members to attend meetings.
“Your Office is an important one. To you is given the responsibility of preserving and compiling the records of this Post. The future can only be judged by the past. Be mindful that the lamp of recorded experience may do much in guiding the footsteps of those who follow. Ever remember that without the recorded history of this Post, its policies and accomplishments will be a blank to the ones who come after we are gone.”
The office of the Historian is of growing importance. It is a suitable position in which a past Post Commander may serve.
There should be close and effective cooperation between the Adjutant and the Historian. The former works with the records on matters of current interest, and the latter on matters of historical interest.
The work of Post Historian is cumulative. It is well to leave it in the hands of one person as long as it’s being handled well.
The Post Historian should keep in touch with the Department Historian and should be prompt in answering inquiries. An annual report should be made to the Department Historian just before the Department Convention.
Copies of whatever is printed concerning the Post should be deposited in the local and state libraries, as well as in the Post files. This is important and will prevent the complete loss of valuable records through fire or another calamity, as well as provide material for those who are looking for information about The American Legion. Also, copies should be deposited in Department archives.
The Post Historian should make a point of knowing what Historians of neighboring Posts are doing. The Historian should attend Department conventions and keep in touch with other Post Historians.
The Department Historian can advise Post Historians on Department and national Post history contests, historians’ associations, and material available from the Department Historian that will assist in doing a better job.
An outline for a one-year Post narrative history and yearbook is graphically illustrated in the Appendix of this Officer’s Manual, listed under “Histories Are Important.” The information recommended will be beneficial in assisting Post Historians in compiling these books.
The voice of the Legionnaire and the Post is only heard by active participation in meetings, whether District, Department, or National.
a. Plan election of delegates as part of the Post timetable
b. Attend District, Department, and National Conventions and conferences
c. Present sound resolutions of concern to The American Legion
d. Report back to the Post
Delegates and alternates to a Department convention shall be elected by ballot by the Post at a regular meeting of the Post to be held at least 20 days prior to the date of such convention.
While your Post could continue to operate if there were no Department, District, or national organization, you can be more effective as a part of a team. You may want to take part in a county or statewide promotion. You may have an idea that should be developed and expanded beyond your Post. Certainly, you want your Post to have a voice in deciding the future programs of The American Legion.
District, Department, and National Conventions are the places where Legion policy is determined. You will want to make certain that properly elected delegates—particularly on the District and Department level, represent your Post.
Each year the District and the Department will hold seminars on either general Legion operations or specific Legion programs. You can go a long way toward solving the future leadership problem in your
Post by making certain that the Post is represented at whatever training session is provided. You will also find that attendance at District and Department functions will do much toward building the esprit de corps that makes for a good Legion Post.
Post 539 are entitled to three Delegates and three Alternates. Delegates will be nominated and elected for each of The American Legion District and Department Conference and Conventions that the Post participates in. Elections will be at a regular Post meeting to be held at least 20 days prior to the date of such convention.
The Adjutant will keep a full and accurate record of the proceedings of all Post meetings. He/she is also responsible for correspondence and secretarial work of the Post under the direction of the Commander and will keep such records as the Post Commander and National and Department Headquarters require. To further aid in the communication of the Post, the Adjutant is authorized to update and maintain the internet e-mail and or website address of those members who consent to provide on request.
The Judge Advocate is the Posts’ legal authority. When necessary he/she will secure competent advice in the conduct of Post business. He/she is the guardian of the constitutional form for Post meetings and government. He/she is part of the auditing of the Posts’ financial accounts.
The Service Officer will render aid and assistance to veterans and their dependents. He/she will maintain contact with the State Service Officer and the National and Department Rehabilitation Commission so that he/she is kept informed of laws regarding aid to veterans and their dependents. He/she may request disbursement from the Welfare Fund, under supervision of the Commander, and will report all expenditures from said Fund to the Post membership at the next regular meeting. He/she will submit a year-end report to the Department Rehabilitation Commission Chairperson.
The Executive Committee Member-at-Large will assist in the management and general supervision of Post affairs. Not charged with specific duties, he/she will represent the membership and may, from time to time, be asked by the Commander to perform other assigned duties.