ArmyEdSpace Spotlight

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association

Thomas J. Gentzel
Alexandria, Virginia
Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

Thomas Gentzel is the executive director of National School Boards Association (NSBA). As such, he is responsible for guiding the development and implementation of NSBA’s strategic plan, programs, policies, and practices. Prior to his time with NSBA, Gentzel served as the executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). Gentzel was selected as NSBA’s executive director in September 2012. 

What has been your most interesting or memorable experience or interaction with the U.S. Army?
Recently, as I awaited a flight at Reagan National Airport, I heard an announcement inviting everyone in the gate area to greet a group of World War II veterans who were traveling to Washington to visit the memorial on the National Mall honoring their service to the country. Several hundred people assembled and, as these former servicemen came into the terminal, the crowd erupted in sustained applause. The veterans smiled and waved at the strangers who had surprised them with a show of genuine appreciation. It was an amazing, memorable, and uplifting moment.

Why do you feel military service should be considered a viable post-secondary option?
It is important to consider the words and experience of those who have chosen military service as a career path. To quote Lieutenant Colonel Josh Brooks, Professor of Military Science, Georgia State University ROTC: “Military service is a lucrative career option for three reasons: benefits, experiences and service. First, the benefits package that comes with military service is very competitive with reliable and competitive pay, free medical care, 30 days of paid vacation each year, an outstanding retirement package and much more. Second, military service offers a number of unique and exciting experiences that are not available through civilian employment, including worldwide travel, training and operation of all sorts of equipment and early-career leadership assignments. Finally, military service enables individuals to join a team, to subordinate their own personal interests for the good of the organization and their fellow Soldiers and to truly understand what selfless service is all about.”

Why do you feel it is important to support the Army as a leader in your community?
Leaders in a community should reflect the priorities and interests of those they serve. In a May 2014 Gallup poll, Americans believe that the U.S. Army is the most important service branch to national defense. In fact, the Army has edged out other military branches in Gallup surveys conducted throughout the last decade, which Gallup interprets as public response to the heavy – and high-profile – ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Research suggests that community connections are key to supporting service members and their families. Only through a strong network of informal and formal community connections can service members and their families appropriately plan, prepare for, and successfully manage deployment. What school boards can do is uphold or initiate programs, policies, and practices that create community and family resilience - it is crucial to help students dealing with frequent deployments and relocations to achieve success, in school and within the community at large.

What are the top three things for people to understand about the U.S. Army?
1. Preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States (U.S.), the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the U.S.
2. Implementing national objectives.
3. Overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the U.S.


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