American Legion National Commander James E Koutz
It was both a privilege and a learning experience to witness the election of Mr. Koutz as the American Legion's Commander for 2012-2013.
I found the election process to be quite interesting. They began the process by nomination of Mr. Koutz. Once the nomination was complete they began the election process via an alphabetical "roll call" by state. Since Commander Koutz is from Indiana the states in alphabetical order prior to Indiana would state their support for Mr. Koutz then cede to another state. Finally the process was ceded to Indiana.
Once Commander Koutz was elected by acclamation there was a demonstration. It was really fun to watch. Folks were circling the convention floor with signs, a bagpiper was playing, cannons were shooting confetti. It was really fun to watch.
Being sworn in.
I had the privilege of interviewing Commander Koutz for a few minutes despite his very busy schedule.
ME: In what Branch did you serve and for how long?
COMMANDER KOUTZ: I served 42 years in the Army.
ME: Did you serve overseas?
COMMANDER KOUTZ: I served from January 1970 to March 1971 in Vietnam with C Company, 169th Engineering Battalion.
ME: I have learned this week that the American Legion has many programs that I was not at all aware of. During your year as Commander what particular areas will you focus on?
COMMANDER KOUTZ: I plan to focus on several areas but one will be Operation Comfort Warriors. Another area I plan to focus on is our Family Support Network.
ME: I know you will have almost unlimited opportunities to visit with various Legion Posts around the globe as well as attending a myriad of events related to the focus and goals of the American Legion. Of all of the opportunities that you are aware of at this point in your schedule is there any one that you are most looking forward to?
COMMANDER KOUTZ: Yes, there are many opportunities that I am looking forward to and many people I am excited about meeting and working with. If I had to pick one that stands out right now it would be my scheduled visit to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. The American Legion has donated substantial amounts to the hospital on behalf of the wounded who are treated there. I look forward to meeting the staff and volunteers and to be able to thank them for all they do.
ME: Is there anything else you would like for folks to know about you or about your plans for the coming year?
COMMANDER KOUTZ: We're not getting a lot of the younger Veterans to join the American Legion. I want to try to figure out why so that we can get them to join and work with us on issues for the better of us all.
Commander Koutz's bio from the American Legion website:
James E. Koutz of Boonville, Ind., was elected national commander of The American Legion on Aug. 30, 2012, during the organization's 94th National Convention in Indianapolis.
Koutz entered the United States Army in August 1969. He attended basic training at Ft. Knox, Ky., and Advanced Infantry Training at Ft. Ord, Calif. In January 1970 he reported to Vietnam and served an extended tour of duty with Co. C 169th Engineer Battalion. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Specialist 5 in March 1971 and quickly joined The American Legion. He is a member of Boonville Post 200 where his father, George, was a World War II veteran and a past commander of the post. Jim was honored as a life member of his Post in 1991 and served as its post commander for nine years.
Koutz retired from the Amax Coal Company in 1995 after 21 years of service. He was appointed by the Warrick County Commissioners in January 1995 as service officer for the Warrick County Veterans Affairs office. The governor of Indiana appointed him commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005 where he served as president of that commission in 2007. In January 2009 he was appointed to serve four more years.
Koutz has held elected and appointed offices in The American Legion at the post, county, district, department and national levels. As Indiana State American Legion Commander, he achieved an all-time high membership during his tenure in 1990-1991. At the national level, he served on the Foreign Relations Commission and as chairman of both the Economics and Legislative Commissions. Additionally, he is a member of the Citizens Flag Alliance and also served on the Veterans’ Planning and Coordinating Committee.
He was awarded the State of Indiana Council of the Sagamore of the Wabash in 1991 by former Gov. Evan Bayh and recognized for outstanding community achievement of Vietnam veterans by President Jimmy Carter. He received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award from the Grand Lodge of Order of the Elks and Boonville Elks Lodge No. 1180.
Here is the video of Commander Koutz's acceptance speech.