Toastmasters membership opportunity on Camp Smith[MIGRATE]

By Cpl. Isis M. Ramirez | March 11, 2013

Heat slowly starts to spread across his face, causing him to blush. He curls his fingers and realizes his palms are cold and sweaty as he begins to pace back and forth, trying to recall the words that were there just a few seconds before.

Public speaking is listed as one of the most common phobias.

After more than a year of trying to get off the ground, Toastmasters at Camp Smith held their first official meeting here Feb. 28.

With approximately 280,000 members worldwide, this educational, non-profit organization isn’t a self-obsessed speech club. It aims to improve its members’ leadership and communication skills.

“Everyone comes in at different levels,” said Richard A. Hernandez, the district manager for Toastmasters clubs in Hawaii who works as the director of readiness section, operations division, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “Some people are deathly afraid or they only have one style and they want to be, maybe, more animated.

“[Toastmasters gives them] a good foundation on speaking in front of people, whether it’s five people or 50 people.”

Hernandez said the 17 years he’s spent in the club has helped him stay competent and competitive in his field.

“This is my career,” said Hernandez. “This is my livelihood. The (operations section) expects me to know my business and convey it in front of the commanding general when I need to.”

Hernandez attributes the competitive jobs he’s held to his refined communication skills and stresses the importance of interview skills for Marine’s transitioning out of the Corps. Upon his retirement, the success of a surprise on-camera interview made the difference between being hired and being one of the 297 applicants to go home.

While job interviews might not be an immediate concern for career Marines, for Gunnery Sgt. Robert Spencer, Global Command and Control System chief at MarForPac, being in the club is about maintaining confident communication abilities.

“Ever since I came off recruiting duty, I’ve always wanted to make sure that I continue to hone my skills in terms of being able to relate to people and being able to convey myself,” Spencer said. “It opens or closes so many doors in your life. So, if you practice this like you practice with your M16 [rifle] or you practice gas chamber or anything else - if you practice that as a skill - it is going to have a positive outcome on your life.”

Currently, the group has 10 members and meets twice a month on Thursdays where two-to-three members are selected to give a speech on a given topic in the Competent Communication Manual. The club is structured so that members can learn different speaking techniques through workbook objectives and then follow with peer critiquing.

Once the initial workbook is complete, the members can progress to the Advanced Communication Series, 15 manuals of career-oriented speech projects. These allow the member to refine his skills to the area he needs the results most.

“The club doesn’t exist for itself,” Hernandez said. “It’s for members to improve communication skills because they want to do something else. So you don’t come to the club because you want to speak. That is where you learn. The impact is outside the club.”

The Toast Masters club has a membership cost of $6 per month. For club inquiries contact Richard Hernandez at (808) 477-8536.