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AUSA gravel passes, celebrates 50 years
ausa cake
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, Mayor Jim Thomas, Command Sgt. Maj. of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade Clifton Johnson, new chapter president Chess Merritt and AUSA national vice president Lt. Gen. (ret.) Roger Thompson cut a cake for the Coastal Empire AUSA chapter’s 50th anniversary. - photo by Photo by Lauren Hunsberger
After six years as president for the local Association of the United States Army, Luis Carreras handed the reins to Chess Merritt during a ceremony Wednesday that also celebrated the chapter’s 50th anniversary.
“I know we’ve got tremendous support in the room, and I appreciate the confidence you’ve instilled in me,” Merritt said.
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Roger Thompson, vice president of AUSA, thanked Merritt and Carreras for leading the local chapter, which was organized in 1959.
“Chapter presidents are volunteers, no one gives them orders and certainly no one pays them and they use a huge amount of their effort and organizational and leadership management capabilities to try to get the absolute best volunteer team to support the soldiers and their families,” he said.
Fort Stewart’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, sat next to Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas at the ceremony as part of a panel of military and community leaders, all present to recognize the importance AUSA’s efforts. 
Cucolo said he appreciates what the local chapter has done for soldiers and he’s looking forward to strengthening the partnership between Fort Stewart, AUSA and the community.
“The support we get from AUSA is indicative of an incredible community of support,” the general said. “And I appreciate the mayor being here… I’ve been in the Army 30 years now, been stationed everywhere, and the community support doesn’t come close anywhere else. And if we can channel that into even more activity and presence of the AUSA logo, that’s where we want to go.”
Thompson also briefed the audience on the goals of the association, which was created as a vehicle for expressing the Army’s needs in Washington D.C.
Thompson said nationally the organization has recently been lobbying Capitol Hill for equal pay between civilians and military, and for higher troop strength, which he said is important to the currently over-stretched Army. He said they’ve also spent time lately providing support to the troops.
“In the past year, your chapters have raised over a million dollars and turned that into benefits of some kind to soldiers and their families,” Thompson said.
For more information about the Coastal Empire chapter of the AUSA, visit
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