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President's Message

  • 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

  • 29 Oct 2020 5:42 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings again. You know the old saying; “Time flies when you’re having fun?” Well, it turns out that it moves surprisingly quickly when you’re hunkered down in a pandemic, too. Thinking back on it, our chapter’s board had just completed our Strategic Planning Meeting in February  -- we had all these grandiose plans for how we were going to organize ourselves and unleash all these great projects on the world in 2020…and a number of our members then went on Paul Daymond’s annual Washington DC tour. While there, I remember spending time in the situation room at FEMA and watching the first COVID-19 numbers pop up on the board in front of us. We returned to Birmingham in early March, and well, basically that’s where everything that we once thought was normal and ordinary ceased to be. And now – suddenly -- we are rounding the final turn and heading into the homestretch of 2020. It’s been extraordinary in every sense of the word. I think I can safely say that when 2020 is behind us, few if any will look back on it fondly.

    But that’s where we stand for now. Largely still. Continuing to exercise the greatest amount of caution, trying to keep everyone safe and healthy. But as for what lies ahead…we simply don’t know for certain, but we have to plan as though a return to “normal” will eventually occur. With that in mind, this is the season that the chapter begins to prepare for the coming year. Very soon, we expect to meet with the Birmingham Field Office’s executive staff and negotiate a Memorandum of Agreement to guide our efforts in 2021, and we have undertaken the nominating process for a slate of officers to begin their terms in January, 2021. We’ve begun to lay the groundwork for our (Zoom) Annual Meeting, which should be held in early December (details to follow).

    We have been hamstrung by the inability to host public gatherings and events this year, and it hurts us in an important way: we haven’t been able to interact with the membership in the way we like, and we have thus been unable to discuss the opportunities for active members to step into open board seats. So I would like to take this opportunity to invite members in good standing who would like to become more active to consider joining our board of directors. We will have several seats open due to departures from the board based on term limits, and we will need to fill those seats with active and enthusiastic members. If you would be interested in taking a more active role in the chapter, please contact me directly at: president@fbicaaa-bham.org to discuss the idea in depth. I’d love to hear from you.

    Be well,

    Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                        FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 28 Sep 2020 12:11 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings. Another month has passed since my last missive to you, and…not a lot has changed in terms of the big picture. We remain in the same “holding pattern” that we’ve been in since March, and that pattern looks as though it will remain in place for at least a while longer. So thanks for keeping the faith as we try to follow the advice of the experts, observe best practices, and wait this pandemic out. It seems our best hope for the near future is for the release and dissemination of a successful vaccine or therapeutic, and indications are that those items are getting closer to becoming a reality. But so far, nothing.

    While we’ve been unable to accomplish much in the public arena, we have been able to act on a couple of public service fronts. We’ve had two hurricanes strike the Gulf Coast in September: Laura, which had its landfall near Lake Charles, LA, and Sally, which came ashore less than two weeks later near the Alabama-Florida border. Both caused tremendous damage and left many thousands in need.

    When Laura struck the Louisiana coast, we responded, as Birmingham always does. We collected funds, we volunteered and helped at the receiving site, and all in all, at least six truckloads of food and other supplies were sent to Louisiana to aid the victims of the hurricane.

    Then, lo and behold, less than two weeks later, Hurricane Sally made landfall not far from Orange Beach, AL. And we have swung back into action. As I write this, Don Lupo and I will make a purchasing trip tomorrow to buy food and other needed items to send to south Alabama, mostly with funds our chapter contributed.

    So it’s the familiar tale – a crisis occurs, a problem arises, a concern is raised…and Birmingham responds. It makes me very proud to be a part of a group like this – always willing to reach a hand out to assist others. And others notice. When we had this month’s Leadership Call for Region 4, our regional rep decided that she would place the spotlight on Birmingham’s disaster response efforts. We were singled out and congratulated for our work on these projects.

    A thought or two: We are approaching the end of 2020, and may I say, good riddance to it. Bur as the year closes, we will begin to negotiate a new Memorandum of Agreement with the FBI Field Office, in which we will set forth the projects and activities we will be tasked with for the coming year, and we will undertake the nominating process for our chapter’s board and officers for 2021. There are several stalwart board members and officers who will be rotating off our board due to term limits. And in this most unusual year, we haven’t been able to spend time with our general membership, so it seems appropriate to ask you this now: if you’d be interested in taking a more active role in the work of our chapter and joining our board, we’d like to hear from you and discuss the prospect in depth. Contact me directly at: president@fbicaaa-bham.org, and we’ll talk about it.

    Stay strong; stay safe.

    Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                        FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 02 Sep 2020 12:34 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Two guys are sitting on the couch. One turns to the other and says; “Did you know there a million dollars in the house next door?” The second guy reflects on that a moment and responds; “You idiot, there IS no house next door – that’s a vacant lot.” The first guy replies; “Then let’s BUILD one!”

    That’s a quote from Marx. Not Karl; Groucho. What does that have to do with anything? Everything. It says a lot about leadership.  You’d have to say Groucho was the leader of the Marx Brothers. Why? Well, one reason is that Groucho defined the reality of whatever situation they were in. And that’s an attribute of a leader: they define the reality for the group. They make the possible seem easy and the seemingly impossible a potentially-attainable goal. They break new ground. They chart paths.

    Each of you is, by definition, a leader. The idea for the FBI Citizens Academy involves bringing community leaders together in order to support and further the mission of the FBI. You all were invited to participate in the CA class. Ergo, you are leaders. You are dreamers, planners, organizers... You chart paths that others will follow. And you are aware that these are tough times for leaders, and all those who strive to make a difference in their community. We are constrained by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the need to keep ourselves, our family, and our community safe and healthy. So we wait. And we hope. If there’s a positive to take from these times, it’s that I suspect that we’re getting closer every day to the point where a vaccine is approved and made widely available, and perhaps that a therapeutic answer for the virus will be determined to be safe and effective. Soon, we hope and pray…soon.

    Meanwhile, it would be appropriate to single out a couple of folks for their demonstrated leadership. One is Tim Johns. Tim, a board member, is involved in scouting along with his kids. He took the initiative to invite our SAC, Johnnie Sharp, to speak to his scout troop, and the SAC graciously accepted. He attended and the results were excellent. Kudos to Tim and SAC Sharp. An article and photos will follow.

    And the other is Dr. Joe Popinski. Joe is about to rotate off the chapter’s Board (again), and will also be leaving the post of BMAP coordinator for North Alabama. Joe doesn’t do much for us; he’s only been active longer than any other Board member, where he has served multiple terms, has been the initiator of our Tech Committee, wrote position descriptions for our officers, edited our chapter’s by-laws, serves on the FBI CAAA’s National Board of Directors, has served as sage advisor to essentially every President we’ve ever had (I think)…other than that, he’s just loafed. Apart from his family, friends, and church involvements, of course. I joke, but the fact is that Dr. Joe has been the beating heart of this chapter for as long as I can remember. When we’ve needed something done, a hand has always shot up to volunteer to help, and that hand has most frequently been attached to Joe’s arm. All officers’ terms end, all Board members rotate off…none of us is irreplaceable. No one. Except perhaps Dr. Joe Popinski. Joe – heartfelt thanks for all you do and have done for us. Joe says he will remain an active member of the chapter, thank goodness. And Joe -- don’t think for one moment I won’t be consulting you. And my successor(s), too. Dr. Joe is like that house next door – he’s worth a million dollars.

    Be safe; be well. We’ll see you soon.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

  • 25 Jun 2020 12:10 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings. And once again, I hope this edition of the newsletter finds you safe and well.

    Though we are still largely in shut-down mode as of this writing, I can report that there are signs of life – efforts are underway to schedule general membership meetings with speakers, to begin very soon. Watch your inbox for announcements concerning dates and times. And there are plans for a fall Citizens Academy class in Birmingham, to begin in September. The nominating process for that class is beginning now, so if you have a name(s) of a prospect for this class, let us know.

    And there’s news from National: The FBINCAAA has created a new award -- the FBINCAAA Humanitarian Service Medal -- and has granted it to several members of our chapter in recognition of their outstanding efforts in support of law enforcement officers who were injured or killed in the line of duty, and of course, for support of the investigation into the abduction of “Cupcake” McKinney. More on this elsewhere and later, but medals and certificates have been awarded to Don Lupo, Bill Conway, Joe DiNoto, Christine Karlson, Andrew Smith and myself. Congratulations to the recipients, and thanks for the good work. It says volumes that our chapter’s work has been so auspicious that a new award had to be created to recognize it – we broke the mold.

    And – Breaking News – I have just today been informed by Tracey Ballinger at FBI HQ in Washington, DC, that our chapter has been awarded the “Chapter of Excellence” award for 2019. They are shipping our trophy to us, and it will be formally awarded in a public ceremony at a date and time TBA. I’m sure you understand.

    Another item: you have probably received and may have puzzled over the “Membership Application” that popped up in your email just recently. “Why? I thought I was already a member? Am I supposed to pay dues again? What’s all this page-after-page of chapter behavior?” Good questions, all. Let me try to explain.

    We have an excellent chapter -- a well-governed chapter -- and we have always played by the rules and colored inside the lines. But there have been other chapters that have violated rules and occasionally have even brought themselves gone “off the reservation” so to speak, brought themselves into disrepute and involved their local FBO office and even HQ into their problems. Chapters have even been dissolved over such issues.

    To attempt to eliminate such confusion and conflict, National and HQ have determined that ALL our members should be asked to sign the FBI CAAA Code of Conduct, as well as the standards of conduct and governance that the chapter must follow to remain in full compliance. We’re not “fundraising,” although if you dues are up for renewal, we’d appreciate it if you’d take this opportunity to re-up.

    We apologize if you have been confused by the application. Please continue to support us. And support us in our efforts to make our communities better – more decent, more just, and more fair. Join us, please.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA   

  • 27 May 2020 3:16 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    It must be said at the outset that I am writing this column with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Once again, I send you greetings from my home to yours, hoping that this issue of our newsletter finds you healthy and secure. And once again it is my obligation to tell you that all our chapter’s outward-facing efforts continue to be on hold. It is our fervent hope that there will be a change for the (far) better in the very near future, but for now, we will continue to play it safe.

    Our board of directors met via Zoom again in May, and this and our other such (virtual) meetings seem to go very well indeed. The attendance is excellent, the discussion is free and open, and we transact a lot of business. It seems as though we have stumbled upon something here, and I strongly suspect that even once we are able to meet as a group in-person, we will make provisions for those who cannot be present at the meeting location to attend via Zoom or its equivalent. So that’s a good thing – we are handling administrative matters well. We are fully in compliance with National’s standards, and all is seemingly well in that regard.

    But as much as we seem to be handling administrative matters well, we miss holding public gatherings, doing educational work, doing outreach with and for the FBI, providing opportunities for all our members to gather and take part in the work of the chapter…There’s been so much that we planned for 2020 – from a fall gathering at Lake Guntersville to home-and-home baseball nights with the Huntsville Trash Pandas and the Birmingham Barons, Chasing the Dragon events, Bomb-Making Awareness Training sessions, a “takeover” social event at a Huntsville shooting range, regular members meetings at restaurants in both cities, home-and-home Top Golf events in both cities…and on and on and on…

    I hope and trust that we will be able to resume our public activities soon. In fact, elected officials on both the state and national levels have urged us – all of us -- to “open up” and “restart.” But as much as we would like to comply and resume our normal activities, it is clearly not yet the time to do so. The Covid-19 infection rate is currently climbing in our state, and more Alabamians are suffering at the hands of this illness every day. And in the absence of proven therapeutics to treat the virus or a vaccine to prevent it, the best way to combat this disease is not to catch it. So with that in mind, our stance is this: we will monitor the situation. And when the FBI and local, state, and national doctors, scientists, and health officials advise that it is reasonable to do so, we will enthusiastically reengage our public activities.

    Until that time, we welcome your continued faith and support in our chapter. Please renew your dues to support us. You may note that our board has lowered renewal dues for 2020 out of consideration for the virus and its effects on our group. And if you haven’t yet done so, consider making us your Amazon Smile charitable organization. Thanks so much for you kind attention, and I hope to see you all in person very, very soon. Until then, please stay safe and healthy.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA     

  • 01 May 2020 7:02 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings. I hope that this issue of our newsletter finds you safe and well. As I was considering the phraseology in which to couch our chapter’s status for this month’s column, I happened to recall an episode of the M*A*S*H* TV series – one that took place back when it was still attempting to be funny. In this particular episode, Major Frank Burns, the perennial party-pooper they called “old Ferret Face,” was sent out on a scouting patrol. When he returned from his uneventful mission, they asked what he had found and he responded; “Sighted nothing; reporting same.”

    Well, it’s a little bit like that. No public action. Everything on hold. But on the other hand, that isn’t exactly the case, either. It’s more like when you see a duck gliding along the surface of a lake: above the waterline it’s all grace and seemingly-effortless progress; but below, those feet are pumping like mad. So we’re a bit like that. Or to be absolutely truthful, we’re somewhere in-between.

    Although we are still under orders that prohibit us conducting any significant public activities (CA class, BMAP training, members meetings…all postponed indefinitely), our board met for a highly-productive and well-attended Zoom conference in April and we’ll do so again in May. We’ve been taking care of administrative and other action items that needed attending to, and we’ve knocked a lot of action items out. And when we meet in May, we will begin making plans for those projects and activities that may be resumed, when it is once again safe and permissable to do so. And by the way, if your 2020 dues are still payable, you’ll soon be notified of a special rate available to give consideration for our lost time and limited activities in response to the COVID-19 restrictions.

    So we wait. And if and when restrictions on public gatherings are eased, watch this space for news of upcoming activities. Our chapter stands ready and able to meet the challenges ahead of us to educate and inform the public and support and further the mission of the FBI. But until that time comes, please do us all a great favor and heed good scientific and medical advice, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy.

    Stay strong!

    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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