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President's Message

  • 03 Nov 2021 5:42 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings, all.

    Let me tell you about some good things that happened in October. The first is that I’m still exhilarated over the training session that our members conducted with the Department of Homeland Security, where we (a cadre of FBICAAA volunteers) did role-playing as a team of bad guys, conducting adverse surveillance while trying to elude security force trainees in anticipation the upcoming World Games. We spent a half-day at The Galleria in Hoover, casing the place, taking photos, and being sneaky and menacing while trying not to be caught as we gathered information about secured and unsecured entrances, CCTV locations, as we sized up where to place explosives or ram a vehicle into the mall, what the police and security presence at the mall was...It was absolutely fascinating – our team built a texting group with our coordinator, and we passed information back and forth among ourselves, and even did a “dead drop” of a package...all while trying not to be spotted by the security trainees. At the end of the exercise, we had the opportunity to do a “debrief” with the trainees and their instructors to go over methods and observations. It was time well-spent; I think all our FBICAAA role-players thoroughly enjoyed the day, and I hope the experience was useful for the trainees. I highlight this event because I was told that they plan to do at least two more of these training sessions between now and Summer of 2022, when the World Games come to town. We’ll be looking for more volunteers. Don’t miss out!

    The second is that we held another in our now recurring Members Meetings, this time in Birmingham at the Fish Market restaurant. Our speaker was Don Lupo, who presented us with a vast amount of information about the aforementioned World Games. If you were not aware, the World Games are likely to be the largest gathering of visitors ever to occur in North Alabama, and they will draw athletes, representatives, heads of state and other officials, and spectators from around the globe. The opportunity for the FBICAAA to play an important role is genuine, and I hope and trust that we will rise to the occasion and be a positive force in making the Games a huge success. But back to the meeting...Don did a fine presentation, the food was good, the company excellent, and chef George Sarris himself greeted us toward the end and distributed dessert – fresh baklava for each of us. A fine evening, enjoyed by all. Do plan to attend the next one, will you? We should be announcing a similar evening in Huntsville soon.

    Our nominating committee is working on a slate of proposed officers to 2022-23 and nominees for open board seats for the upcoming term. And note that you will have a voice in this process because the members elect the board. The nominees will be presented at our Annual Meeting, on December 2nd in Cullman (because it’s halfway between Birmingham and Huntsville). There’s more about this meeting to come soon in an official announcement, so watch for that.

    As we approach the end of the year and I look back on 2020 and 2021, the two things that amaze me most are that we’re still standing and that you’re still with us – you’ve stuck with us through the most difficult period this organization has ever endured. Your unwavering support of the FBI and your belief in the mission of the FBI CAAA is inspiring. I can’t thank you enough.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 01 Oct 2021 1:21 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings once again.

    We have some activities and opportunities on the near horizon that I want to make you aware of. First and immediately upcoming is a request from Kirk Toth at the Department of Homeland Security. He has asked for our chapter's help in conducting training for security personnel for next summer's World Games, which will take place in Birmingham. He needs about 10 volunteers to do role-play on Thursday, October 7th– to pretend to be doing surveillance: photographing, filming, note-taking, and/or generally snooping about – at the Riverchase Galleria from 10 in the morning until about 3-3:30 in the afternoon. There are no great physical demands, no risks; and you will be told what to do and how to go about it. So...want to be a spy for a day? Write me and I'll give you full details: phfranklin36@gmail.com. Thanks!

    Another upcoming good thing: we'll have another general membership gathering at the Fish Market restaurant at the Med Center in Birmingham at 6:00 pm Thursday, October 21st. If you came to the last one, you'll remember these are very informal, order-off-the-menu-if-you-choose-to evenings. We plan to have a speaker, but these are fist and foremost opportunities to get together, network, and socialize. Please come. It's just no fun if you're not there. Bring your significant other, or even an insignificant other if you have one of those and want to. And Huntsville members – we 'll try and have a similar gathering there in November. Stay tuned.

    I had the occasion to conduct a workshop at our (very) recent National Leadership Conference, and by way of introducing myself to the assembled multitude, I mentioned that I was serving the third year of a two-year term as President of our chapter. What a ride it's been! On the one hand, it seems like it's been a long time, yet it also seems like just yesterday when we began this journey together. One thing for certain – it has not been a dull three years. We've done so much and accomplished so much as a group. There have been new faces, new initiatives, new partnerships...and Covid. So let's just say it has been...eventful. But now the end of my term approaches and we are beginning to focus on the coming year and the coming of new officers and board members, a new Memorandum of Agreement with the FBI's Birmingham Field Office, and it's new goals and objectives. We'll be convening a nominating committee forthwith, and we'll negotiate an MOA with the FBI, too. All will be revealed at our Annual Meeting, which we expect will take place in early December. You'll get a notice about that as soon as the particulars are finalized.

    One more thing. We lost a giant this past month. Dr. Joe Popinski -- a long-time member, a multiple-term board member, a member of the National board of directors, long a trusted advisor and confidante to all our board members and officers, a thoughtful and reflective gentleman who was always on the right side of every discussion, one who never said; “no” when asked to assist in any project or to undertake any task...all this and so much more – Dr. Joe passed away in September from the effects of Covid-19. His loss is incalculable. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Mrs. Popinski. Dr. Joe meant so much – did so much – for so many. All who knew Dr. Joe will miss him terribly. May we all try to live up to the example he set.

    Please be well and take care.

    Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA


  • 31 Aug 2021 7:02 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Twenty years.

    That’s how long it’s been. Twenty years ago this month, America endured the devastating, heart-wrenching 9/11 terrorist attacks. Twenty years. Three thousand deaths, the skyline of our nation’s largest city and commercial hub changed forever...Twenty years. This is a sad, sad anniversary, one that demands solemn remembrance and reflection.

    9/11 changed everything. It certainly changed American society in ways big and small. A trip to the airport or a visit to any government office or installation should serve as proof of that statement. We are much more cognizant of the potential dangers that exist in our quotidian routines. We are changed, and we’ll most likely never be the same again.

    The attacks that day changed the FBI, as well. The Bureau was tasked with taking on broad anti-terrorism and national security duties, and it has performed them commendably for a generation now, keeping our nation and its citizens safe and secure. And this, I suppose is where I can tie this back to what I am doing here today, writing this column.

    I really thought about this month’s column simply being left as an empty white page with nothing but “9/11 -- 20th Anniversary” in the center, but in the end I decided I did want to relate his back to you. To us.

    As I’ve said, the FBI CAAA exists to support the mission of the FBI. We are eyes and ears in the community for the FBI. We are ambassadors to the broader public for the FBI. We provide support to the Bureau whenever and wherever we can. We act as force magnifiers for our nation’s premier anti-terrorism and national security agency.

    So when we support and co-host the monthly counterintelligence briefings, when we support and co-host the Explosive Precursor workshops...when we support agents in performing their jobs in any way, we are contributing to keeping our nation safe. The FBI is charged with keeping America safe and secure – protecting you, me, our

    families and friends safe from hard; neutralizing threats against us and our way of life, and as we support the FBI, as we work with the agents, we contribute to that effort, too.

    So as we approach this somber anniversary, please take a moment to reflect. And take a moment to appreciate those who have dedicated themselves to keeping us safe. And give yourself a pat on the back for all you do to help others and our society.

    So be safe. Be good to yourself and others. Be of service. And be well.

    Best wishes,

    Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 02 Aug 2021 6:34 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings again, and welcome to August.

    First, thanks to all who came out to the first of our (rejuvenated) Members Meetings. We enjoyed an entertaining and well-attended evening at the Fish Market restaurant in downtown Birmingham, where we enjoyed fresh seafood and afterward had a lively and informative presentation by Carolyn Potter and Holly Bunn from The Wellhouse. I cannot express how good it was to gather as a group again – in person – and just share space and enjoy one another’s company. I am certain that all who attended would score this as a success; and we are already planning for the next such event, which we’re expecting to host in Huntsville in the next few weeks. Look for details as soon as all are locked in.

    One of the things that emerged for having an energized group and representatives from one of our long-standing service projects, is that opportunities – fresh ideas – arise. And it occurred to us that although we have worked with The Wellhouse to combat human trafficking for some years, the vast majority of our membership knows little about the facility itself. So we are discussing having a tour of The Wellhouse’s campus for our members in the near future. We’ll see the entire operation, including their newest buildings, which include housing for the very youngest HT survivors, a chapel, and their transitional living facility, where residents phase back to independent living and working in the community. We’ll try to make a good half-day of the visit by including a group meal or other such activity. So stay tuned as we work on arrangements.

    And have I mentioned our monthly Counterintelligence Briefings? They are held the 3rd Thursday of each month, from 11-12 noon, and they are incredibly well-done -- packed with timely and useful information. You should be getting the invitations; please join us. Otherwise, we expect an opportunity to assist explosives expert John Bates at a workshop in the Quad Cities in September, we will be ushering in a new CA class in Birmingham that same month, and our National Leadership Conference will convene in Las Vegas that same month. Busy times ahead!

    Let me take just a moment here. As I mention our national organization and our annual conference, let me note that NO chapter is better represented at the highest levels of the FBI CAAA. Two of our members – Dr. Joe Popinski and Andrew Smith, who serves as Treasurer, sit on the national board. Dr. Joe runs “front of house” for the conference, handling AV and tech matters for the entire proceeding. Don Lupo has been the strong force behind our crisis response team, both locally and nationally. And this year, I’ve been invited to present a workshop on “How to President” at the conference. Our fingerprints are all over this thing. It is a source of pride that the Birmingham-Huntsville chapter is looked upon as the Gold Standard among FBICAAA chapters – the standard for innovation and involvement, and we hope that never changes. Okay, that’s plenty from me for now. I hope to see you soon, perhaps at our next Members Meeting. Until then, please stay safe.

    Best wishes,

    Paul H. Franklin

    President FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 01 Jul 2021 8:18 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)


    I had a bit of a mind-snapper yesterday. I logged on to our monthly Regional Leadership call, as hosted by our FBI National CAAA organization, and honestly, I just expected to spend a quiet hour listening to faraway people talk on faraway topics. Not so. Our Regional rep introduced Alicia Wadas, our national organization’s president, who greeted the dozens of attendees and immediately said; “Today I’m putting the spotlight on the Birmingham chapter.”

    She specifically cited the recent training session on explosive precursors that SA John Bates conducted in Huntsville in May (wherein he trained industry and retail types on recognizing efforts to secure potentially explosive or incendiary materials), and then she told the attendees about our newly-launched monthly Counterintelligence briefings (important news and updates to defense contractors and researchers concerning spying and hacking efforts) – both of which we are proudly co-sponsoring and on which we work alongside our FBI partners. She noted that no other chapter in the nation has ever attempted even one such project, and here we are, launching two major such initiatives in partnership with our FBI Field Office in the space of a month. She held us up as an example of innovation and dedication to our mission.

    Pretty much made my day.

    Seriously, this indicates the respect and esteem in which we are held nationally – we are the chapter that TRIES stuff – we take on projects and we get things done. We always have and I hope we always will. When it came my turn to talk, I attributed it to two factors: our willingness to partner with the FBI and others to achieve progress and perform service to the community, and equally importantly, an unparalleled level of communication and cooperation with our Field Office. We are truly blessed in these regards.

    Okay, back to the fun stuff: we’re back to having in-person board meetings as of June. And we are launching in-person members meetings in July. We will have our first gathering in a private dining area at the Fish Market in Birmingham on Thursday evening, July 22nd. You’ll hear much more about that shortly. We’ll follow that up with a similar event in Huntsville. We’re working on the details now. And look for a few other public events this summer, too – like a tournament at Top Golf in August to benefit human trafficking survivors at The Wellhouse. Please come out and support these events when you get the official notice. We have missed seeing one another terribly this past year, and we are eager to get back together and put things right!

    I truly hope to see you in the very near future at one of our upcoming events. Please stay tuned for further details.

    Best wishes,

    Paul H. Franklin

    President FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 01 Jun 2021 12:43 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings, all.

    As much as I’ve tried to resist, and despite that it makes my wife groan to hear me do it, I’m going to do it – I’m going to quote Monty Python when John Cleese said; “And now for something completely different.” What’s different is that, upon advice of science and public health experts, we’re (finally) opening things up again. So expect more and more of our activities to take place in public once again. And may I add a hearty and heartfelt “Hoo-rah!” to that.

    One thing we’ve learned over this last 14 months or so is that there’s a lot of positives to Zoom and other such virtual resources. So we’ll be maintaining a Zoom or Zoom-like component to almost everything we do for the foreseeable future. It simply makes sense when our membership is clustered around two population centers 100 miles apart. And it’s a boon to those who are out of town or otherwise unable to attend a given event in person. So that. But please know that we’re in the process of finalizing in-person members meetings on an alternating basis between the two cities to start ASAP.

    A couple of other items of note: we’ve picked up two outstanding new projects: We co-sponsored (with Infragard) FBI explosives expert John Bates’ day-long training session on explosive and incendiary devices in Huntsville at the FBI/HPD firing range on May 12th, and we expect and intend to sponsor additional training sessions at other locations in N AL in the coming months. And our board has adopted another new program, whereby we will sponsor monthly counterintelligence briefings for defense contractors and scientific and medical researchers. Our chapter will handle registration and conduct surveys for each session. As a special favor, our members will be invited to attend these (virtual) sessions. The first of these counterintel briefings will take place in late June, and you will receive an invitation to register and join.

    A brief explanation of why these two new projects are significant: we are the first and only chapter in the nation to undertake projects of this sort. We are honored to be asked and honored by the trust shown in our members by the FBI. And we want you all to benefit from our partnership with the Bureau. So please, when you see the invitation to participate by attending or volunteering to serve as we work these events, please do come aboard. You’ll always be welcome and appreciated.

    As we transition to “normal” activities, expect to hear from us about upcoming members meetings, a fall CA class in Birmingham, the annual Civil Rights and the Law conference, some pure-fun social outings, and more. I do so look forward to seeing you in person soon. Until then,

    Be well,

    Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 02 May 2021 7:42 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings once again.

    It seems that after months and months…and months of writing variations on the same theme (in the interest of public health and safety we are not doing any public events, but we are hoping for a change in the not-too-distant future…), it appears that we can now see a time when that policy will change.

    The SAC has authorized a fall Citizens Academy class in Birmingham – the first in eighteen months! – and our board of directors has determined that we will began to hold in-person gatherings beginning this summer, and that we will plan for a fall chapter “retreat” at a nearby destination to allow us to, shall we say, reconnect with one another and begin anew. We’re thinking about a summer event centering around the FBI installation at Redstone Arsenal, and we hope to do home-and-home baseball games with the Trash Pandas and the Barons, as well. Bear in mind that all these events are contingent on the public health situation at the time, but at this point the trend line looks encouraging enough to allow us to be hopeful and to make plans.

    The first thing we expect to offer is a late July members meeting – an FBI After Dark event – to be held in a private dining section of a Birmingham restaurant. We intend to follow that with a similar event in Huntsville soon after that, then make those members meetings regularly-occurring events.

    Meanwhile, there should be a notice forthcoming any day now about a virtual members meeting, where we will host our “other” ASAC, Andy Loftin. Look for details about this Zoom meeting in the next several days; we do hope you will join us to see and hear all he has to say.

    We had a good and productive face-to-face meeting with The Wellhouse, and we hope that we’ll be able to work very actively with them on Human Trafficking matters in the months to come. And I’m personally excited that we are about to embark on our first cooperative venture with our FO’s explosives expert, John Bates, as he conducts outreach and educational events to raise awareness about explosive and incendiary materials and efforts to secure them by potentially bad actors. We’ll be co-sponsoring a workshop in Huntsville on May 12th, and we hope that there will be many more to follow.

    Let me sum it up by saying thanks for staying with us during this most unusual period. We’re going to make every effort to repay your faith and trust in this organization, and we look forward to seeing you very soon.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 01 Apr 2021 8:07 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Hello again, and welcome to Spring 2021.

    It appears that we are on the cusp of being able to hold public events and to invite you to in-person members gatherings once again. Not today or tomorrow, but in the near future. And that is rather exciting news after what we’ve been through. I’ve recently been informed that SAC Johnnie Sharp, Jr., has tentatively approved a Fall 2021 Citizens Academy class in Birmingham – our first CA class since 2019. And we’ve begun discussing doing FBICAAA nights for Barons and Trash Pandas games this summer. And perhaps a summer event involving a tour of the new FBI facilities at Redstone Arsenal and briefings on the projects and progress there? And maybe a “range day”-type experience or two? Could be…we’ve got a lot of ground to make up. But so much of this remains tentative, awaiting the word that we can safely resume some public activities. In the meantime, you’ll find news in this issue about our upcoming April members meeting, which will be held via Zoom. I do hope you’ll make plans to attend.

    What have we been up to lately? Well, we’ve assisted in tornado relief, brought in the “Soup Ladies” from Seattle to cook for first responders in the storms’ aftermath, we’ve assisted collection of needed items for tornado victims, and we made a very generous contribution to the Miami Chapter as they assisted the families and Field Office co-workers of the FBI agents who recently lost their lives in the line of duty. We are in the process of setting up meetings with The Wellhouse to assist with their clients – human trafficking survivors. And we’re trying to gear up our Bomb-Making Awareness project and arrange for new training sessions. And there are several other items that are beginning to crop up on the horizon – think of these as the green shoots of new life and growth for our chapter.

    And listen – speaking of life and growth, I’ve been meaning to put this in a column for a while now, and I don’t want to let this opportunity pass me by again: What I want to say is this: Thanks. Thank you so much. Thank you for the faith you’ve shown to stay with us through this awful period when we’ve been so constrained. Thank you for keeping your membership current. Your dues allow us to contribute to assist the families of slain officers, to contribute to cover the Soup Ladies’ lodging expenses while they were with us, providing hot meals for first responders. But those are just a couple of examples. It’s everything we do. Everything we do is because you care about the mission of the FBICAAA, and what we do together means enough to you that you are willing to pay your dues each year to keep your membership current and keep us afloat. So thanks. And I really, really look forward to being able to thank you for your support in person as soon as we are able to schedule some “live” events. And for those of you who have not yet renewed your membership for the current year, please consider doing so. It would mean so much to us to have you back with us as a member in good standing.

    Stay well and stay strong,

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 07 Jan 2021 6:51 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Fondest greetings to you all on the New Year. I hope you’ll allow me the honor of being among the first of the seven billion inhabitants of this planet to express the same thoughts: my gratitude – and relief – that 2020 is now in the past. It was a year that will be long remembered, but never missed.

    As awful and disruptive as 2020 was, our chapter appears to have emerged relatively unscathed, and looking forward to the time in the not-too-distant future when we may once again fully engage with our many projects that serve the community. We hope and expect that we will once again be able to pursue our work on human trafficking, opioid awareness, bomb-making awareness, along with our efforts on crisis relief for fallen law enforcement officers and on natural disasters, as well as offering support for  Citizens Academy classes, and on and on…

    I hope that many of you were able to attend our excellent (virtual) Annual Meeting in mid-December. I do think we were able to put together a good show – our SAC, Johnnie Sharp, Jr., was excellent, as always – so very informative. It’s always edifying when the SAC can open up to take questions from the members as he did. It was lively and packed with useful inside information. We are so fortunate to have the relationship we enjoy with our FBI Field Office. SAC Sharp and COS Paul Daymond are simply superb. It is their support that allows us to be the outstanding chapter that we are. And Marc Curles, our board member, parliamentarian, and resident SEC football official, exceeded all reasonable expectations with his talk on officiating in the SEC in the time of Covid-19. Absolutely spellbinding. Our thanks to Marc.

    But now, with the arrival of the new year, as the poet says; “The moving finger writes…”, and we must bid goodbye to several officers and board members whose terms expired at the close of 2020. V-P Ginger Ory, Secretary Debbe Trehern, our Treasurer Chris Karlson, and the great Joe Popinski…all vacate their seats due to term limits. Our thanks to all for their tremendous efforts on behalf of the chapter.

    And we welcome new officers: V-P’s Brenda Conville (Huntsville) and Jacqueline Gray Miller (B’ham), Secretary Vanessa Vargas, and Treasurer Damita Hill, along with new board members Rish Wood, Fernando Valentin, Alex Brewer, Huisuk Kim Palmer, and Paige Boshell. We are excited about the prospects for a new and invigorating year. There are many challenges that face us and there is much that we want to accomplish. Let’s start out by stating our intent to be the best FBICAAA chapter in the nation, just as we have been for these many years.

    Please give these new officers and board members your support, and we hope to see you – virtually at first, and in the flesh as soon as it’s feasible once again. Let’s pledge to go forward together and make 2021 a memorable year – for all the right reasons!

    Happy New Year!

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                       FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 01 Dec 2020 4:43 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings. As always, I hope this issue of our newsletter finds you well and happy in this Holiday season.

    This is the final time I will come to you in print this year, and it is truly a bittersweet goodbye we will bid to 2020. This is the point where in a typical year I would recount to you our chapter’s many accomplishments, events, and projects. But that would be in a typical year. I recall some years ago, in addressing her subjects, Queen Elizabeth II spoke of the then-current year as an; “annus horribilus;” and that is what we have experienced, as the pandemic – among other elements -- upended all semblance of “normal.”

    Yet we have persevered. We have received awards – gaining both the highest honor given to a chapter, and as individuals, with several of our members awarded medals for their exemplary service to others. We have assisted on multiple occasions when law enforcement officers have been injured or killed in the line of duty, and we have organized and served as a coordinating agency for hurricane relief (repeatedly) this late summer and fall. So we’ve done what we could, and we’ve obeyed the advice of experts and curtailed our group activities, all while waiting for vaccines or therapeutics to arrive and allow more typical activities to resume. And on that front, we have hope that 2021 will be far better and more productive for us in the public arena, as it appears help is on the way.

    So allow me to mention a few things: we are working with the local FBI Field Office, and we should have a new Memorandum of Agreement to present to you shortly. The MoA, as you may know, is the document that we use to guide and measure our projects and activities in the coming year. And we will be operating with a largely-new slate of officers and a few new faces on the chapter’s Board of Directors for 2021. We’re also working on a couple of opportunities to work together to make the holidays brighter for some folks who could really use the help. The details should be elsewhere in this issue, or if time runs out before final arrangements are made, we’ll email the membership to let you know how you can help.

    More news: we will be unveiling the new slate of officers and a few new board members at our Annual Meeting at 6 PM on 12/17. We will hold the meeting via Zoom, and further details will appear else where in this issue. Our SAC, Johnnie Sharp, will speak and we know you’ll also want to hear from our special guest speaker, board member and SEC football official, Marc Curles, who will talk about officiating in the SEC. This should be especially interesting as he discusses SEC football in the age of COVID. Again, more details elsewhere in the newsletter, but rest assured that we’ll have a lively evening.

    I’ll hope to see you on Zoom on the 17th. And I want to thank you for your faith in us and your continued support throughout 2020. And please accept my wishes for a happy and blessed Holiday season for you and yours. Let’s all hope for a safe and enjoyable close to this year and a far, far better 2021 together! 

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                       FBI Birmingham CAAA

            The FBI Birmingham Citizens Academy Alumni Association (FBIBCAAA) is a nonprofit organization separate and apart from the FBI.

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