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IVAW GI Organizing
By Aaron Hughes
Thanks to the kind support of VVAW, the GI Organizing Committee of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was able to hold its first ever active duty training at Coffee Strong just outside the gates of Fort Lewis. We had four simple goals: energize participants, build their confidence, plug them into the GI Organizing network so they know they are "not alone" and share practical organizing skills (grounded in a strategic framework) to bring back to their base.
Despite the fact that four of the active duty members had their leave canceled for reasons such as "it's in your best interests" the training was a success. In a online AAR (after action review) Bobby Grudd noted, "Nice work last weekend everyone! That was effective, positive, creative and productive training. One of my favorite parts of getting involved in this movement has been the friends made and experiences shared with those friends. I think that we all now have the ability to pass on some of the training we received to our members/supporters/allies in our respective area." Ray Curry noted, "Personally, I have gained so much from experiencing each of you and from the collective us. I'd like to thank the newer and more unplugged members for braving the unknowns and risking the journey. Your input contributed directly to the success of this training." Jeff Englehart noted, "it was an awesome weekend. I learned a lot and had fun doing it too." Lily Hughes one of the organizers of the training noted, "I am re-energized and in awe of the number of emerging dynamic leaders in IVAW and the GI movement and I am confident that our work will become increasingly effective."
This was a new model of training for IVAW. Led by members of the GI Organizing Committee Selena Coppa and Seth Manzel, we brought motivated IVAW members from across the country, together with ally organizations such as Courage to Resist, DCOI, IWW and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Everyone worked to pull together a very successful training in a short amount of time. About fifteen active duty and reserve IVAW members discussed how to strengthen IVAW within the military. One workshop spent time asking the question, how do you talk to fellow active duty soldiers about Iraq Veterans Against the War? Acting through the different approaches used, from sharing common frustrations, to diving right into a question like, "What do you think about that group Iraq Veterans Against the War" built confidence and brought a little comfort to outreach.
A highlight of the training was the presentation by VVAW's Barry Romo about the history of the GI movement. He shared stories about how the GI movement gained ground during the Vietnam War and answered questions about ways we can build an even stronger and better movement.
Special thanks goes to Seth Manzel and Selena Coppa for spearheading the training. Great leaders in IVAW who will help us grow into an extremely powerful organization.
Aaron Hughes is a member of the Chicago chapter of IVAW.
Barry Romo on VVAW West Coast Tour