ArmyEdSpace Spotlight

John Tuttle, President, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

John Tuttle
National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your position.

I grew up in rural Oklahoma. My parents were single young adults when World War II started. My Dad was a full time farmer at 23. He went with his brothers to enlist in the military, but was told to stay home and farm. My Mom went to work in an airplane factory at age 18. Before the war was over she had helped build many different types of planes and gliders. She was a riveter in the Douglas Aircraft factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had uncles and cousins that served in the military and their stories and experiences fascinated me. Growing up in the Vietnam-era we had many family friends who served and the seriousness of the war hit home when one of our closest family friends didn’t come home.

As an adult I began my school board service in 1993, serving on the Kellyville, Oklahoma school board. Through this service and leadership training, I began taking opportunities to serve at other levels. I was elected to serve on the Oklahoma State School Board of Directors in 1998 and became state president in 2006. That led to being elected to serve on the National School Board Association Board of Directors in 2007. I now serve as the president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and am humbled to represent state school board associations and the over 90,000 public school board members across America. NSBA is highly respected and in this position I am entrusted to exhibit the values and behaviors that are expected of our organization’s leadership. Once the year is over, I will turn my position over to the next person fortunate enough to carry the banner of service. What higher honor is there than service?

Q: How did you become involved with the Army?

I was invited to attend the Army’s annual High School All American Football game from January 1-4, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. I toured the base and met with Army staff. They shared the challenges that all military branches face when recruiting qualified men and women to serve in our Nation’s armed forces. Along with other invited guests, I was able to interact with Army personnel who shared information on the numerous opportunities the U.S. Army offers.

Q: What were you surprised to learn about the Army through your involvement?

I was surprised that less than 25% of our Nation’s 18-20 year olds are qualified to serve in our military. Lack of a high school diploma is only one of the many factors that can exclude a young person from military service. Many medical conditions can exclude one from service, and one must be physically fit to serve. Of the less than 25% who are qualified, many will choose college, vocational studies, or other trades, leaving few eligible and available for Army service.

Q: How has your partnership with the Army made a difference to your organization?

As the National School Boards Association president, I have the opportunity to travel to many states and visit with many different groups that are concerned about public education. We play a vital role in the education of our Nation’s youth. We advocate for equity and excellence in education for all children, regardless of where they live, no matter their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. I have since shared with groups and individuals the challenges our military face in finding qualified young people to serve. This is vital to our Nation and everyone in education can have a part in preparing our youth so that when the time comes the military can be an option for those who have the desire to serve.

Q: What has been your most interesting or memorable experience or interaction with the U.S. Army?

While I was in San Antonio I met many wonderful service men and women who serve their country with distinction. Being able to thank them in person was very rewarding. To hear each one tell the story about their life and their service was truly inspirational. Also, on the last day I went to Stinson Airport and did a tandem skydive with the Army’s Golden Knights. The World Champion Golden Knights I should say. This was a ‘bucket list’ experience for me. Seeing the preparation and attention to detail I am again reminded why we have the greatest military in the world. It was a day I will never forget and I have the pictures and video to prove I was actually there and did it.

Q: Why do you feel military service should be considered a viable post-secondary option?

In today’s world the options are endless. The first step is to graduate every student from high school. That opens up other possibilities. Many will choose college, but we know that not every student will go on to college. Some may choose trade schools or vocational studies. Some may not have the means to enroll in college or a trade school. Our military has so many avenues of training that young people can enter the military and work on their trade or college degrees while serving their country. Not only will they be furthering their education, they will be getting some of the best leadership training on the face of the earth. We need more leaders in every occupation, and our military has a long record of training our future leaders. This makes military service a great post-secondary option for many of our Nation’s youth.

Q: Why do you feel it is important to support the Army as a leader in your community?

In our country today, we lack good strong leadership in many areas. When anyone serves in a position of leadership it is important that we demonstrate good leadership by showing respect to other leaders. How we interact with one another sends a vital message to our youth. By demonstrating our respect and support for our military, kids will in turn learn the value of not only respect but the value of service. There is an old saying that service only begins when you realize there is something more important than yourself. When our kids understand that things like Freedom and Liberty are to be cherished and that Honor and Respect are values worth living, then I believe many will choose our military as a great option for them and their future.

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