Notes from the national convention presentation
At the 124th VFW National Convention, VFW Adjutant General Dan West gave a Wednesday, July 26, 2023 afternoon presentation on the responsibilities of a VFW District Commander.
West said the District Commander is the vital liaison between post and department whose main responsibilities are to educate, inspire, and motivate post commanders.
West discussed his Four Battles framework, which he applies daily when making decisions:
- Is it legal/ethical/moral?
- Is it feasible (both in physical and financial resources)
- What is the perception?
- What is the reality?
With a number of examples and anecdotes, West further explained his Four Battles framework and how he applied it to some of the interesting situations he ran into as a District Commander in Texas.
One thing West said district commanders should do is to be present or even conducting annual post inspections.
Additionally, when pressed, West shared four important responsibilities of a District Commander:
- Establish consistent communications. West discussed how too little or too much (massive emails), can overwhelm post commanders and the national, department and district correspondence be ignored. He suggested that once-a-week correspondence with post commanders is a good sweet-spot. Additionally, he spoke on how communications shouldn’t be one medium. He said he communicates with post commanders through email, snail mail, phone calls and texts to combat the “I didn’t know the schedule” problem with absent commanders at district meetings.
- Maintain spotless integrity. West said district commanders should not “have an angle” when advising post commanders. He reminded attendees to praise in public but correct in private—no “point of order” for every infraction of the ritual when visiting a post meeting. He said the biggest complement a district commander can get is when a post commander comes to them for help.
- Increase institutional knowledge. West said he learned the VFW bylaws by reading and studying them, and putting them into practice. He jokingly said the bylaws made good bedtime reading.
- Foster relationships. West said by calling up post commanders for check-ins, attending post events, consistently communicating, and generally supporting posts, district commanders will have a much easier job, especially when it comes to having difficult conversations.