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President's Message

  • 24 Feb 2020 9:26 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Lately, I’ve become hyper-aware of the cycles that occur in our chapter. Certainly board meetings leap to mind – probably because I must call them, set the agendas, etc.; but there are others as well, and there are those that are sources of excitement and enthusiasm. We express our appreciation to board members and committee heads who have rotated off or whose terms have ended, and we warmly welcome our new board members, officers, and committee and project heads. We have a great crew heading up our chapter, and our future looks bright.

    A perfect example of our cycles is that, as March arrives and spring approaches, we anticipate the launch of a new Citizens Academy class in Huntsville. And as you all no doubt remember from your own experiences, the Alumni Association will be present in force, to warmly welcome the new students into our very special company (remember – we are a select group of community leaders, nominated by our peers to attend the CA class) on their opening night, and to provide a meal for the class and the alumni and FBI staff in attendance.

    And our board is hard at work in this (still new) year, renewing our commitments to long-term projects -- beginning anew to arrange “Chasing the Dragon” showings in both Birmingham and Huntsville, planning efforts to deal with human trafficking in conjunction with our partners at The Wellhouse, and of course, much, much more, such as a second annual FBI Day at Childrens of Alabama, and a second sub-regional gathering that we expect to offer  – a Summit at the Lake, bringing several chapters together at Lake Guntersville in the Fall. But as certainly as these cycles recur, we continue to innovate. In fact, our chapter probably initiates more new projects than any other chapter in the nation does or ever has. This year we have an important new project; a ground-breaking one, unique to the Birmingham chapter that we hope and expect will be a long-term commitment for our chapter. Let me tell you a bit more about it.

    Four of our members – Dr. Joe Popinski, Tom Polk, TJ Knight, and I – attended training last year on the DHS’s Bomb-Making Awareness Program. We are now authorized to train volunteers to visit merchants and others and teach them to recognize efforts to obtain the materials to make explosive or incendiary devices. Now to you: If you would like to receive this BMAP training and become a Community Liaison officer, we would love to have you. We anticipate holding training sessions (4 hours) in Birmingham and Huntsville in March, and already have several volunteers signed up to attend the training sessions. There are still several slots available, so if you’d like to participate in a potentially life-saving program, call us or write us and volunteer to attend training. We’ll get you on board right away.  

    Thanks for your attention and support.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA


  • 28 Jan 2020 7:23 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings. I hope this issue finds you well and happy. It seems I’ve just had my first deep breath of this month – it’s really been busy around here. We had our first board meeting on the 12th of January, followed by the Annual Meeting later in the afternoon. Thanks to all of you who came out to join us at the Vestavia Hills Library. I hope you enjoyed Dr. Joe Popinski’s program, which was an excellent overview of the Bomb-Making Awareness Program, which will be one of our signature projects in the days to come. A highlight for me was the opportunity to present well-deserved Chapter Leadership Awards to Bill Conway, Joe DiNoto, Chris Karlson, and Dr. Joe Popinski, for their outstanding efforts over the past year. And let’s take the opportunity to welcome Jennifer Cofer (our new Membership chair), Jacqueline Gray Miller, Chris Huys, James Watts, Tim Johns, and Gary McCullors to our Board of Directors. We look forward to working with them for the coming years.

    We followed that meeting up with an all-day Strategic Planning session at Lake Guntersville State Park’s Lodge. You should have been there – it was magic. We got so much accomplished, and have so much in the works that we’ll be rolling out for you soon. One of the things we found was...we love Lake Guntersville State Park. We love it so much that we’re thinking in terms of hosting a gathering there in the fall. We are likely to call it The Summit at the Lake, and we’ll likely invite several other chapters to join us for social time, informational presentations and discussion groups, outings in the beautiful natural settings, and networking opportunities. Look for more information as the date approaches.

    At the end of the month, I got a call from our Executive Director, Sandy Mangold, concerning the two police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty in Waikiki, Hawai’i. The Honolulu chapter had never dealt with a situation anything like this, and Sandy asked me to help out. I called their President, Jason Fujihara, and we struck up a working relationship that became a firm friendship over the several days and the several long conversations. We leveraged some of our (unfortunate) experience from having assisted in three police shootings and a child abduction in 2019 to help the Honolulu chapter navigate the process of supporting the law enforcement groups involved in the case – providing food, beverages, and more to the investigators and the affected precinct, and in raising $20,000 in donations to go to the survivors of the two officers. It’s a source of considerable pride, that when a crisis occurs and the chips are down, the FBI Birmingham CAAA is where they look for leadership and direction.

    And you’ll surely remember that I’ve been harping on the need for more and more frequent opportunities for our members to gather. We’re on it. Look for news of a social event in Birmingham in February, followed closely by an event in Huntsville. There’s great things happening in our chapter. We hope to see you at an FBI CAAA event soon. Be well.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 23 Dec 2019 8:08 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Happy New Year! With this issue of the newsletter, we begin both a new year and a new decade together.

    2019 was a year of great challenges and great accomplishments for us. I recounted much of the year in last month’s column, but as surely as I thought 2019’s crises were behind us, we were greeted with another tragedy – a Huntsville police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty. Once again, we rose to the challenge of feeding and supporting the local police in the wake of a tragedy. This time, special recognition goes to Board member Joe DiNoto and Treasurer Chris Karlson for handling local efforts in such an exemplary manner. Many thanks to Joe and Chris for their superior service. And we were assisted by Sandy Mangold, Executive Director of our national organization, who was able to marshal national companies’ support to augment the local help.

    As proud as I am – as we are – of our chapter, and as much as we sincerely believe that we have the best FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Chapter in the nation, we have room for improvement. We could do more and better outreach into the community, there are initiatives that we could undertake, we have committees that could function more effectively; but above and beyond those items, the most pressing issue for us is that we could and should have more opportunities for members to get together.

    That last item is the one we will focus on with laser-like intensity this year. We WILL have multiple opportunities for our membership to come together, socialize, network, and learn from one another, as well as to enjoy programs and presentations from FBI personnel.

    The first general membership event is on the horizon – we will hold our Annual Meeting at 2:00 on Sunday, January 12th, in the Community Room of the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest. We hope you’ll make plans to attend. You will receive more information about the event under separate cover, but please join us.

    --- Paul H. Franklin, President

         FBI Birmingham CAAA

  • 17 Dec 2019 8:44 AM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    It’s far from an original thought, but as I sit down to formulate my thoughts for my final column of 2019, the first thing that pops into my head is; “Omigosh – this year has gone by so fast!” Yet here we are, staring at the calendar for the final days of 2019. Simply shocking…

    So a few items to help recap our year: We began 2019 with tragedy – a fatal shooting of a Birmingham Police officer. Our chapter rose to the occasion, providing food for the slain officer’s precinct, then providing funds for his out-of-town relatives to attend the funeral. On a far lighter note, we held the inaugural “FBI Day at Childrens” in early Spring – an enormous delight for the kids at the hospital. We held “Chasing the Dragon evenings in Huntsville and Birmingham, with attendance greatly augmented by live streaming. We held the first Sub-Regional Gathering at Redstone Arsenal in summer, attracting attendees from Nashville and Jackson (MS). We co-sponsored Active Shooter Preparedness for Houses of Worship in both cities, attracting capacity crowds. Then when another Birmingham Police Officer was seriously wounded in a running shootout in late spring our chapter provided food and support for day after day to assist the West Precinct, where Officer Stafford was assigned. Soon after that incident, several of our number attended the National Leadership Conference, where four of our members received Presidential awards for Meritorious Service and our chapter received the prestigious “Chapter of Excellence” trophy – the highest honor possible. Fall arrived…more or less (we entered October with 100-degree heat and drought) and we were called upon again when a 3-year old child was abducted from a birthday party. We fed hundreds of meals over many days for the investigative team, and then we were specifically requested by the Chief of Police to lead a grid search through neighborhoods in NE Birmingham to look for the missing child, or evidence. Sadly, that story had a most tragic ending. A couple of weeks later, however we gathered at a Birmingham restaurant for a lively “FBI After Dark” evening. Good food, good crowd, great program…apparently, though, we had such a good time that the restaurant closed down the next week. Rough crowd, right?

    All in all, this year has been quite a ride. The highs have been tremendous, the lows sometimes difficult to endure. But through it all we have continued to grow in number and in reach. As we approach the holidays, I am most thankful for the many opportunities – to attend the CA class back in ’15, later to serve on the board, and later still for the trust you’ve shown by allowing me to hold office. I am grateful – so grateful – for ALL the staff at the FBI Birmingham Field Office, and for the support and trust they give us. It’s humbling. And I am thankful for our hardworking officers and board members; and especially thankful for each and every one of our members. As good as this organization is and has been for 16 years now, it’s all because of each and every one of you. To all you interested, active, engaged members, thank you so very much. For those who haven’t yet had the chance to join us at events and meetings, please do so. The FBICAAA is one of those “bathwater” organizations – you know the type: where once you get in and get used to it, it’s actually not so hot...We are different. We are special. Come and be special with us – be an active part of the alumni chapter in the nation. You will love it. I hope you can join us at the FBI FO’s luncheon on 12/13, or the FBI After Dark that’s soon to be announced in Huntsville, or our Annual Meeting, which we will hold in early January.

    Thanks for everything. Best wishes for happy and blessed holidays, and I hope to see you very soon.

  • 29 Oct 2019 3:24 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    Greetings! When they hear that I’m involved in the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association, people often ask what it is that we do. And longtime inactive members may wonder what the same. Allow me to catch you up on our most recent activities.

    Since I last wrote you, we cosponsored our annual Civil Rights and the Law symposium. This year’s program focused on Hate Crimes and was held at the historic 16th St Baptist Church. As always, it is auspicious and moving to attend an event at 16th St, and this symposium was no exception. And since we are on the subject of senseless, hateful crimes, we were fully and deeply engaged when little Kamille McKinney was abducted from a birthday party in Birmingham. Our FBICAAA chapter coordinated with National leadership and the FBI’s local Employee Assistance Program and provided literally hundreds of hot meals and beverages to the Command Post, over the course of several days. We supported and fed as many as 50 FBI, BPD and JeffCo Sheriff’s Dept. personnel per shift, as they were investigating the 3-year-olds disappearance. And on Sunday, 10/20, we were specifically called upon by the Birmingham Police Department to conduct search parties in Huffman to look for the missing child. I personally led a squad of 24 on a grid search to scour a neighborhood, an apartment complex, and a wooded area, searching for clues or evidence related to the case.  Thanks to all our members who came out to help with the search, and special thanks to our partners at Infragard and to Jay Germann and his cohorts from the Chelsea Police Department, who also answered the call for assistance.

    On a brighter note, we had a very enjoyable evening last week in Birmingham, where we had an FBI After Dark event at Macaroni Grill. A good crowd attended, and we had social time with fellow members and some of their significant others; SAC Johnnie Sharp was gracious enough to join us and provide welcoming and introductory remarks, and then ASAC Todd Bobe presented a study of a case he worked in north Mississippi a few years ago, called “The Stupid Poisoner’s Handbook.” It was a wild ride.

    Presently? We have the Birmingham Fall Citizens Academy class about to graduate in 2 weeks – the Alumni Association will provide dinner and firm handshakes to all. And Paul Daymond is making final preparations for Range Day 2019. Details will be forthcoming shortly. And if you missed the FBI After Dark in Birmingham that we just held, you’ll have another chance coming up shortly – we’ll be announcing one for Huntsville very soon, so look for details.

    So…all in all, we’re busy and productive. But there needs to be more opportunities for our members to come to know one another better, and to socialize and network. So in that interest, know that in the immediate future, there will be an increased emphasis that – social educational, and service events to provide opportunities for our members to come together, so watch for announcements.

    All best wishes,

    Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA     

  • 07 Oct 2019 1:54 PM | Christopher Huys (Administrator)

    I hope this finds you all well and happy. Recently, I’ve been sitting in on the sessions of the current Fall 2019 Birmingham Citizens Academy class, acting as an “ambassador” for the Alumni Association, and it has been an eye-opener for me. The sessions have been interesting and the presenters excellent, as always, but I’ve been most struck by the class members themselves. What an attentive, enthusiastic, engaged group they are! Several have mentioned that they are looking forward to joining the Alumni Association and remaining active after their class graduates, and I strongly suspect that they will have an impact on our chapter.

    Their most outstanding characteristic is their enthusiasm – you get the sense the whole class is leaning forward in their chairs as they hear about the mission and methods of the FBI, as they are being brought into the “Circle of Trust,” as they learn the importance of the Bureau in keeping us safe, and of the opportunity we are given to act as “Force Magnifiers.” And witnessing this enthusiasm and their discoveries affects me, too. Coming to these classes on behalf of the Association – now for the, what, fourth or fifth time – gives me a new perspective. Far from being bored or jaded by hearing the presentations again in the company of the new class, I feel I’m vicariously experiencing the impact of this information for the first time. And it’s a powerful jolt. It makes me hyper-aware what an honor it is to be nominated, to be selected and to attend the classes; and now to be able to serve as an active part of the Alumni Association.

    Similarly, I was on a Regional Leadership Conference Call earlier today, and got to hear about some of the projects that are in the works nationally; but what raised my pulse was the chapter reports: hearing how much good work so many of our local chapters are accomplishing. Guys, I hate to tell you this, but some of the other chapters may be catching up to us. We may have to reach down and find another gear in order to stay ahead and remain the nation’s premiere FBICAAA chapter.  

    And we will. We have our Civil Rights and the Law conference dead ahead in Birmingham, followed closely by our participation in the National Night Out in Huntsville; and we hope you’ll join us for an FBI After Dark event in October (touted elsewhere in this newsletter). We are working on a similar event in Huntsville for November, so look for an announcement of that soon. And our newly-trained Bomb-Making Awareness Program administrators will be beginning to do training sessions aimed at teaching the public to detect and report attempts to acquire materials for explosive or incendiary devices. And stay tuned – soon we will be announcing the date, location, program and other important details of our chapter’s Annual Meeting, to be held in early December.

    Once again, thanks – for your support and for all that you do. I hope to see you soon.

    Paul H. Franklin, President

    FBI Birmingham CAAA


  • 28 Aug 2019 9:21 AM | Ginger Ory

    Several of us have just returned from the annual National Leadership Conference in Houston, so allow me to give the briefest of recaps, as it pertains to the FBI Birmingham CAAA. First, and most importantly to all of us, our chapter was recognized with the award that represents the highest level of attainment possible – the Chapter of Excellence. Congratulations to all who helped us reach this pinnacle. The award represents recognition for a great deal of hard work and dedication by many. And on the subject of recognition for superior efforts, four members of our chapter were awarded Gold Medals for “Outstanding Dedication and Service” – so congratulations to Bill Conway, Andrew Smith, and Don Lupo. Due to an apparent clerical error, I received that award, too. Seriously, it was a distinct honor to be so recognized. So again, kudos to all our recipients. Overall, the conference was interesting and involving – these gatherings are a virtual hive of activity, and filled with information. We always make excellent connections with our counterparts from across the nation, and this time was no exception.

    We are in something of a “breather” now, as we prepare for a busy Fall season for the chapter. Four of us – Tom Polk, Dr. Joe Popinski, TJ Knight, and I – are about to undergo DHS’s ‘Bomb-Making Awareness” program training, after which we will be conducting training for the public on recognizing attempts to secure IED materials; and the upcoming Citizens Academy class in Birmingham will commence on 9/17. We also have our annual “Civil Rights and the Law” events to be held in Birmingham the last week of September. Planning is just beginning for our Annual Meeting, and we hope to be announcing several more events in the very near future.

    As we prepare for the upcoming busy and involving seasons, I recall a Regional Conference Call of a couple of months ago. Bill Wade, our Region 4 Representative, called on the chapters to give a recap of what they have been up to over the last month and what they had immediately upcoming. One by one, the chapters reported, and many of the reports were followed by questions or comments. When he called for the FBI Birmingham CAAA report, I gave them the thumbnail sketch of our most recent activities. I finished and was met by a brief period of silence and then “wow’s.” Bill said; “You know, your last month would constitute a busy year for most chapters.” All this is to say we have set the bar very high, and we never want to take a step back from our levels of service and commitment. And that is how we look to our future.

    So please keep in touch. Follow us on Facebook, visit the web page, come to the events, but please continue to support your chapter in whatever way you can. I hope to see you soon.

    Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                                                        

    FBI Birmingham CAAA


  • 01 Aug 2019 2:00 PM | Ginger Ory

    President’s Column – 08/19

    Pardon me if this is getting repetitious, but July has been quite a month of the FBI Birmingham CAAA. Fresh off the success of our co-hosting duties for the Active Shooter workshop “Protecting Houses of Worship” in Huntsville in June, we hosted the inaugural Sub-Regional Gathering, where our chapter was joined by members of the Nashville and Jackson (MS) chapters in Huntsville. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first such event for this or any FBI CAAA chapter, and it has garnered national interest. It was terrific to spend time with our local members and our many guests, and to tour and visit the FBI’s facilities “behind the gates” at Redstone Arsenal. More about this event elsewhere in the newsletter.

    On a more serious note, when Birmingham police officer Cullen Stafford was shot multiple times and seriously injured as he pursued a robbery suspect, our chapter stepped in to help. Through the Herculean efforts of our board member, Bill Conway (who has done magnificent work on this project), and Executive Director Sandy Mangold of the National FBI CAAA, we have handled meals for the officers of Birmingham’s West Precinct for the past week. Furthermore, upon learning that Officer Stafford was shot the day before his 36th birthday – and the day of his EOD date for the Birmingham Police – we’re working on plans to host a delayed birthday party -- complete with gifts, refreshments, and decorations -- for the officer, just as soon as he is healthy enough to enjoy it.

    And one more thing: I received official notice this week that our chapter has been selected as a Chapter of Excellence by National FBI CAAA. Our representatives will be called up to receive an award to that effect at the National Leadership Conference in Houston in mid-August. The award is a testament to the hard work and dedication, as well as the inspiration and innovation, that marks our chapter as among the finest in the nation. It is heartening and reassuring to receive such an honor; however, we should  resolve that any such awards or recognition we may receive should serve as landmarks in our history…but not campsites. We may be excellent, but we can and will be even better in the future.

    More good things are in the works, and I’ll provide details as they are available. However, in closing, allow me to note an area that needs improvement: we need more opportunities for our membership to get together. The turnout for our sub-regional gathering was excellent, and it pointed to the fact that when we present an opportunity, our members show up; and we have a great time together. We will address this need and we will do better. If you have suggestions for opportunities or occasions for us to gather, please let me know. Meanwhile, this (more open events for our members) will be an item that we will be visiting more aggressively in the coming months.

    Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                      

    FBI CAAA Birmingham

  • 01 Mar 2019 8:56 AM | Ginger Ory

    As I write this, we are approaching the end of February and it has been a busy time for the board and our members. As our Spring events are rapidly approaching, please allow me to call your particular attention to a special few. First, we eagerly anticipate the new FBI Citizens Academy class that is slated to begin in Huntsville on the evening of March 12th. The first evening of class is always a special time – community leaders and opinion-makers coming together to learn about the mission and methods of the FBI, new acquaintances to make, and the opportunity to share with them about the Alumni Association. And of course we hope that a good percentage of this cohort joins with us and becomes a part of the CAA’s continuing efforts. A number of us will be on hand to provide a meal and a warm welcome to the new class.

    I have just received official word that the FBI Birmingham CAAA will co-sponsor an Active Shooter Preparedness workshop for houses of worship. The workshop will take place April 4th at Rosewood Hall in the Soho section of (Birmingham suburb) Homewood. This all-day presentation will be limited to 100 participants, and holds great promise for being very timely and useful. An official announcement will follow shortly, and we will be seeking volunteers to assist us.

    Additionally, there are two extremely special events that we are working to finalize, and I can tell you that I am excited about both. But unfortunately, I can’t yet provide details until the necessary final  arrangements and agreements have been made. The most I can say at this point is that one will take place in Huntsville and will feature educational and social aspects; the other will be in Birmingham and will be a heart-warming day of community service. Watch this space – we will be making announcements on both events soon. And you’ll want to register for both early, as they should fill up fast.

    The last item – The Washington, DC, trip. There are only a few signatory annual events in the life of our chapter, and chief among them is the absolutely perfect trip to HQ, Quantico, and other major sites in the Capitol, that Paul Daymond arranges each year. If you have been on one of these trips, you understand what I’m attempting to convey here. If not, let me tell you that this is a trip you’ll remember forever – a behind-the-scenes tour of  much of what makes the FBI and our government “tick.” A trip you could never hope to duplicate on your own. The dates are April 15-17. It’s easy to do and a perfect way to get to know your fellow alumni on a deeper level. We share this tour with the Jackson, MS, chapter, and I can commend them to you as being good companions. So please seriously consider joining Paul Daymond on this trip.

    I’ll close now by thanking you for your continued interest and attention. Please be in touch.

    Paul H. Franklin, President                                                                                        FBICAAA                                                        

  • 01 Feb 2019 9:30 AM | Ginger Ory

    As I prepared to write this column, I had occasion to ponder the purpose – the necessity – of my writing a monthly missive. And it occurred to me that, rather than dealing with the hard and fast – the dates and times and other specifics of the month just past and the one to come – my charge is more along the lines of telling you about the intangibles and the results of our efforts, things we’re working on, and items we’re excited about.

    So let me begin this month’s notes by advising you that our chapter is in exception ally good shape. We have attained a record for active, enrolled members, with still more renewals arriving regularly. If you haven’t yet renewed for 2019, please do so now. You are needed and wanted. And another unprecedented success: we just held a “Chasing the Dragon” event at Huntsville High School on 1/24. We had over 209 pre-registered to attend in-person, and thanks to FBICAAA member and WAFF News anchor Liz Hurley, the event was live-streamed on WAFF and on Facebook. Early results indicate that over 9000 followed the event live through those methods. Let’s sum it up this way: great job by Ginger Ory, by all our many FBICAAA volunteers, by the panel (including our ASAC, Todd Bobe), and of course by Liz Hurley. Phenomenal results.

    So, what’s on the horizon? We expect a fund-raising event at a local restaurant in Birmingham in February. Details should be available soon. We are in the early stages of planning for a recurring FBI Day at Children’s Hospital in early Spring. We are working with Paul Daymond to offer Refresher Training for our FBI Citizens Academy graduates, to present updated information to those graduates who attended classes several years ago. Expect an announcement of a Range Day-type event in Huntsville in the very near future. I could go on…

    Now back to you. What we need from you is this: involvement. You were nominated to attend the Academy because of your talents and abilities. You learned about the Bureau’s mission and the Alumni Association’s efforts. To do what we do, we have several committees, many connections, which create many opportunities for public service. So please, when we have public events – attend. Network. Join in. And when opportunities for service arise – join in. We are nothing without you. But with you? There is nothing we can’t accomplish. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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

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