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The value of my Club membership

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- It is good to periodically spend a little time taking stake in what is the true value of being an Air Force Club member.

Talk to any Services employee, and they will be quick to explain the value of being a club member. They eagerly describe the 10 percent discount you get on purchases, weekly drawings, free member events, and so on.

Often, membership will be turned down with the excuse that “I don’t use the Club enough to justify the monthly dues.” This makes membership strictly an economic value proposition of discounts and freebies equal or greater than the monthly cost. That approach misses the point. As much as I enjoy our Air Force Clubs, none of that has anything to do with why I’m a member.

To me, Club membership is about being committed to the Air Force, and the Air Force lifestyle. Ask yourself, how many promotions, retirements, commander’s calls, training events, off-sites and working group meetings have you done at the Club? Over the course of a year, you might be surprised that these types of events can get you to the club about once or twice a month. To make these activities work, we need spaces like what the Clubs provide.

Services could change their revenue model from monthly membership to a fee-for-service method where you would pay on a per event basis, much like commercial banquet halls and convention centers downtown. But I’ll ask, is that really how we want our clubs to operate, where commanders have to pay on a per-use basis for access to the Club? The fee-for-use model would make our Clubs operate in opposition with other businesses downtown and put them in direct competition, which is not allowed by Services.

The other thing a fee-for-service business model might do is make our Clubs look like other businesses. Our Clubs hold a lot of heritage and help maintain continuity of Air Force culture. From their locations, architecture and interior design, everything about the Club is culturally based. Most Clubs are repositories of the most significant pictures and events from the base’s history. More Air Force members learn about their base’s history at the Club than from the historians. This aspect of the club is far more important than 10 percent discounts and Member’s Nights that are offered by Services.

As I get ready to wrap up over 32 years of wearing the uniform, to me it is more evident than ever on what the Clubs really do for our culture, productivity and effectiveness. I would hate to see a future generation of Air Force Airmen without Air Force Clubs.

So, if you value the types of spaces that let us have promotions, retirements, commander’s calls and more in our own Air Force way, please consider doing your part. Being a Club member is about being all-in for the Air Force. So the next time a Services member asks if you want to be a Club member, consider the whole value of the membership and not just the 10 percent discount.

When you are done with that, be sure to thank the Services team for everything they do in keeping Air Force culture alive.

So, are you a member?