howto

HOW TO ORGANIZE A BOAT REUNION

1. Go to www.altavista.com, www.google.com and to www.yahoo.com to see if your boat is already having any reunions. Assuming your boat’s name was SIRAGO, put the following in the search block: +sirago +reunion and review if there is already someone trying to do it.


2. Check out the following web sites for on-line members of the boat: www.submarinesailor.com, www.hullnumber.com, www.vetsrollcall.com, and www.classmates.com (under military). You should also review Ron Martini’s DOS (Directory of On Line Submariners) which is at: www.rontini.com/dos.htm. You can search this last database by going into a letter range (alphabet) and then when you are on the page, do an EDIT/FIND and put your boat number in the block and keep doing that to find your crew members. Using the email addresses that you find, begin to contact these people letting them know you are interested in building a “reunion crew” database and need the following information (put into EXCEL or some other similar database format):
NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, EMAIL ADDRESS, WIFE’S FIRST NAME, HIGHEST RATING/RANK ON BOAT, YEARS ABOARD (ie. 64-67), RETIRED RANK/RATE (if applicable) and CODE (F=found, D=Deceased, S=Seeking, N=Not Interested, H=Honorary non-crewmember). All your “found” guys would be “F” of course. Other fields like Nick Name, Plank Owner, Decommissioning Crew may be added. For the USS Sirago, we also added a field we call Duty Section which was an arbitrary 4-year period in which to “group” people from the same relative time period. Since Sirago was in business between 1945 – 1972 we had duty sections numbered like 4548, 4952, 5356, 5760, 6164, 6568, and 6972 to represent the first and last years of the grouping. This has worked well with us and is a necessary thing to do if you have literally hundreds of people “found” and need to send out messages and queries to a “subset” of the crew who may have been there when a certain “incident” happened and you are gathering data.


3. Go to Altavista, Google, and Yahoo again (as in step 1.) and search for places where your crew members may be logging into a chat room or message board. Put:
+sirago +submarine
into the search block (substitute YOUR boat name of course) and review all the entries that come up. Email people who are members of your crew and ask for those database elements you need to add them to your listing.


4. Start a simple newsletter and ask crew members to come up with names they remember from certain time periods. Ask if they would be willing to chip in $5.00 or so to help fund some microfilms to get people’s FULL names. These microfilms cost $34 each and the ones from 1945-1958 have 2 years on each tape and 1959-date only have 1 year of crew rosters on each tape. In your newsletter, ask any of them if they know the whereabouts of other crew members and get them to write or email you.


5. Find out how many of the people you have on your list are members of the USSVI (see www.ussvi.org for a description of this organization). Meeting at the next USSVI convention (held every 2 years – even numbered years – in the fall) is a cheap way to hold a “reunion” as all hotel, dining, activities, etc. are already planned and many other members of your old boat may be there anyway – so it’s a good way to get a good start on gathering those names.
To get microfilms, call the National Archives to find out which “crew roster” (MUSTER ROLLS) tape or tapes would be the right “activity number(s)” in their archives. Cynthia Middleton is the woman you need to talk with. She is in the Modern Military Records(NWCTM) Texual Archives Services Division, National Archives at 8601 Adelphi Road / College Park, MD 20740-6001. Telephone: 301-837-1977.


6. Once you have a microfilm (assuming it’s been funded by your group), you can search for your boat (the microfilm is organized in boat NUMBER order) and then slowly go through the rosters, carefully copying down the FULL NAMES and ratings/ranks of the individuals. We added these names to OUR database and used a code of “S” for Seeking and put the word SEEKING in place where the address would normally be until we found them.


7. Using www.switchboard.com you can put the first name and middle initial of the crew member in the “first name” block and put the last name in the “last name” block and search. Don’t use periods behind the initial. Some names will generate just a few prospects and you will have to call them to find them.


8. Costs build up, so be sure that in your simple newsletter, you ask for donations as part of a “booster” fund to fund your phone calls and media purchases as well as your mailing and printing costs. In the beginning, you may need to fund this on your own until you get a group started.


9. In the newsletter, try to get stories from the crew about real events that happened. It’s always good to get photos too (see next item) to go along with the stories. We have a quarterly newsletter. Guys also like to have a crew roster so any new person found should either be emailed an extract of the roster (guys he would have known that you have found) or mailed such a document. Current members can occasionally be mailed a full roster as you build the group, or you may want to give that out at your next reunion. Be sure to take lots of photos at your reunions as well (see next item).


10. Photo sites are available on the web for free although many cost you a subscription fee. You can also build free sites on the internet or your email provider may allow you to have some function like this. If you have a site that you can “edit” easily (like www.freesitenow.com) then go for it. You can always “LINK” to other sites. For a photo site, I would recommend picasaweb.google.com which is currently free, but may not be in the future. Photos can easily be emailed to them and albums can be organized, photos annotated, all for free. This really helps in getting people to “remember” the guys by name. In order to do this, ask your crew members to email you photos (that they scan) or mail them to you (if you can scan them).


11. You will find that getting by on “booster funds” can be a bit tricky, especially because many people will choose not to “boost”. We have chosen to NOT have dues in our group, only because we don’t want to leave anyone out. Our experience is that only 60% or so will actually give anything. However, those that give will often give more than the requested $5.00 booster. I have had as much as $100 given by a crew member and I’ve had over 3 $50 contributions when I only asked for $5. This isn’t the rule, of course, but guys can be quite happy about having someone do all the coordination work and will support it as necessary. Be sure you keep track of who boosts and only slide in a “paper” reminder (in the newsletter) to encourage those who have NOT boosted, to start boosting.

Another issue about “funds” is that when you hold a reunion, you can sell items for a slight profit which can help you in the years between reunions with the newsletter and other costs. If you are a storekeeper in the USSVI, then you can get items at a low price from the storekeeper at the national office. Other great vendors can be found at www.subshipstore.com and www.submarinestore.com. Contact them and find out what the “reunion coordinator’s pricing” is. It is considerably different than what they sell to for the general public, but you will need to buy in volume, etc. Always best to “pre-sell” the items in your signup sheet before the reunion and add maybe 10% more to sell AT the reunion. You don’t want all your funds tied up in inventory.


12. Once you have found more than 100 crew members, you can reasonably expect about 1/3 of them to come to a reunion. The BEST reunions will be when you have groups of AT LEAST 5 who all know each other. While it’s fun to come to ANY reunion, it’s REALLY fun when you can get a crowd of guys who all know each other. You will have to be the “cruise director” for your reunion, so expect to try to encourage guys to come. If you have a good newsletter, a good web site, and have that critical mass, you can attract people. For reunions involving under 70 crew members coming (total crowd of about 130) I would recommend the Lake Wright Resort in Norfolk VA. This can be found on the web at: www.lakewrighthotel.com. They specialize in military reunions and do a fantastic job at a very reasonable rate. However, they cannot handle really large groups (like 350 crowd) so you will have to shop around for that.


13. Never publish crew members’ names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. without their express permission. You SHOULD strongly encourage them to allow other crew members to be privy to the information but promise that you will not publish the information anywhere else. It is easy to “link” to submarine crew member’s names in sites shown in item 2. above, but don’t publish them on your own to the general public without permission.


14. On a “miscellaneous” note, I would recommend that you inform all your “on-line” guys to be VERY polite on their emails. Don’t forward jokes, don’t make “mass mailings” (except for the reunion coordinator and Duty Section Chiefs to do), don’t attach files without permission, don’t talk dirty (email may be going to wife or daughter), etc. Just a suggestion. We currently have enough people on line (about 300) to justify have “Duty Section Chiefs” who are in charge of 4-year periods aboard the boat (see item 2. for explanation of “Duty Sections”). Whenever I find someone new, I announce it to the appropriate Duty Section Chief who then sends out the bulletin to HIS Duty Section. In this way we don’t bother people who wouldn’t know the fellow AND it encourages good email conversation within the Duty Section rather than replying to me, who may not know the crewmate.


15. A second “miscellaneous” note needs to include the appropriateness of divulging classified material, or material you are not sure is or isn’t classified. When the group is small, there is little problem as the mailing / emailing list is tiny. However, when you have retired Admirals, Captains, and senior retired chiefs in your mailing list, you may not want to embarrass yourself by being “dressed down” by these fellows if they are offended that you would ever talk about such classified stuff. Of course, that’s your decision to make – just a suggestion.


 
 


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