Though The American Legion is recognized – and sometimes thought of – at the national level, its effectiveness in lobbying, conducting programs and providing services starts at the post level. Everything in The American Legion starts at the grass-roots level and works up – as it has since the organization’s inception in 1919.

Critical to that work flow is that Legionnaires at the post level have the training necessary to carry out the Legion’s mission. The newly rolled out Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program was devised specifically to facilitate that training.

Announced by National Commander James E. Koutz during the 2012 National Convention and debuted earlier this month, LEAD is a one-day, eight-hour training session designed to provide instructions to department, county, district and post members.

“We want the training to be very practical and useful at the post and district levels,” said David Elmore, assistant director of the Legion’s Internal Affairs Division and the LEAD coordinator. “It’s everything from post operations to running programs, and it is geared toward ‘training the trainer’ so the information can be taken to the post level within the department. The goal is the make it practical for the post-level Legionnaire. We’re not just providing information, we’re showing how to actually use it.”

There are 24 classes available through the program; departments can choose from any combination that totals at least eight hours of instruction. The training sessions also can be tailored to meet the needs of the individual department.

Departments provide classroom space and attendees; National Headquarters covers the rest.

Training sessions covering every aspect of The American Legion are available: Americanism, Children & Youth, Legion Riders, health care, enrolling in the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system, VA volunteering, compensation and claims development, national security, legislative, economic programs, communication services, public relations, fundraising, and post operations and membership development, among others.

Participants who complete at least eight hours of LEAD training will receive a cap/lapel pin.

So far, 16 Legion departments have undergone or scheduled LEAD training. Texas recently had more than 220 participants in the training, while Minnesota had 175. Texas already has plans for more training.

“For many, this was the first training they ever attended, and for some it was the first event they attended at a level higher than their post,” Department of Texas Adjutant Bill West said. “We feel that by teaching the members more about the organization and our programs, it’s a win-win for both. We get a more informed member, and the members get valuable information to bring back to their posts and help their individual posts to develop new programs or improve current programs.”

LEAD training also has been conducted in Alabama, where it received a positive reception.

“The concept is refreshing, the content and staff from National was knowledgeable, and our members were receptive to them and the information they brought,” said Department of Alabama Adjutant Braxton Bridges. “Our members want more in the future. Hopefully, it will motivate our members to do more.”

Additional LEAD sessions have taken place in Indiana, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Wyoming. Upcoming LEAD training programs are scheduled for Washington, North Dakota, Michigan, Tennessee, Nevada, Oregon, Kansas and Florida.