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Why Volunteer

By Phil "XRAY" Blake

April 24, 2020 - Ask a pilot what VAC stands for, and they may say it is the missed-approach climb speed for flap configuration with the critical engine inoperative. That is to say, one of the 40-plus V-speeds. V-speeds aside, it is also the acronym for EAA's Volunteer Advisory Committee.

What is the Volunteer Advisory Committee and what do they do? As stated in EAA's Volunteer Operation Handbook, the VAC is: "A group composed of volunteers who represent and promote the interest of EAA volunteers by seeking out avenues to recruit, train, support, appreciate, and to properly recognize volunteers."

Let's look closer at the part that says "promote the interest of EAA volunteers." How do they do that? "By seeking out avenues to recruit, train, support, appreciate, and to properly recognize."

So why is volunteer recruitment so important? From a production point of view, EAA volunteers know the answer. Founder Paul Poberezny and his wife, Audrey, knew the answer. Paul and Audrey were the driving force and brains behind EAA, but they knew if it were to succeed, it would have to be built upon the shoulders of its volunteers. That was just as true then as it is now. Simply stated, without the volunteers there would not be an EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration. AirVenture is, for all intents and purposes, a volunteer-produced fly-in. In 2019, 5,500 individuals volunteered 250,000 hours to make the magic of Oshkosh happen.

"Magic! What magic?" some ask. "Besides, what could I possibly do?" And the answer is, nearly anything you want to do! One of the benefits of a volunteer job is finding the one that best fits you. If you have a skill you want to share, volunteer. If you want to learn a new skill, volunteer. We have physicians parking airplanes, librarians doing carpentry, accountants welding, and teachers preparing and serving food. There is even a story (and a great one at that) of a retired test pilot and a NASA aeronautical engineer who drove the garbage truck. Find your niche, make some friends, and do not be surprised if those friends become part of your family.

When my wife and I were first married, I told her we were not only a part of each other's families; we were part of the Oshkosh family. Neither of us could have imagined how profound that statement would prove to be. Years later one of our Oshkosh sisters told us, "Our Oshkosh family are the only ones who have seen our kids grow up." Her husband was in the military and regularly moved from base to base. It was only during their annual migrations to AirVenture that their Oshkosh family could see how much their children had grown over the last year.

My wife and I were blessed with two children. Our eldest was 10 months old and his brother was 10 weeks old when they first journeyed with us to AirVenture and met their Oshkosh family. I do not doubt that today, if either needed help, day or night, our Oshkosh family would be there for them as quickly as time and tide allowed.

Our Oshkosh families have suffered through heat and cold, torrential rains and winds, and floods. There have been celebrations of life for recent births and for those who have passed. Together we have shared joys and sorrows, argued and loved, laughed and cried, and we would not change it for the world. It is life. It is Oshkosh. That is the magic. That is what volunteering means to our families.

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