Col. Mike Warlick, USMC (Ret.), has been a man on the move all his life. In his personal life, he’s always enjoyed running and found that he excelled at it even though he preferred baseball. And although running the mile in 4 minutes 34 seconds is still his high school’s record, Col. Warlick’s personal and professional life has not been about running but rather about building strong foundations wherever he and Dede, his wife of more than 40 years, have lived.
Col. Warlick currently serves as AFCEA’s vice president for regional and chapter outreach, but he began sprinting toward his goals in the early 1970s. When his lottery number put Col. Warlick one month away from being drafted, he met with a Marine Corps recruiter and joined the Platoon Leaders Command—an officer program that allowed him to finish college before entering military training. He attended Officer Candidate School, eventually becoming a communications officer, and he retired after more than 29 years. During those years, Col. Warlick’s family moved 21 times and lived in places as exotic as Japan and as familiar as North Carolina where he had grown up.
Also during those nearly three decades, Col. Warlick made a lasting impact on the places he serviced, including the National War College, Washington, D.C. With a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, becoming the school sports coordinator was a natural fit. But what Col. Warlick did with that opportunity is one part of his legacy there—helping replace all of the uniforms and equipment “that were so old that much of the equipment would have been considered antiques,” he shares. In 2000, the colonel also founded the Alfred M. Gray Award for the Outstanding Company Grade Communications Officer. “This single award evolved into an annual awards dinner that now includes more than six different awards recognizing outstanding Marine officers, enlisted, government civilian and unit awards,” he explains.
For more than 20 years, including 10 years after retiring from the Marines, Col. Warlick has focused on mentoring young men and women, an endeavor that ultimately led him to AFCEA. Although his early membership was much like many communications specialists and comprised joining the association as a matter of course, later in his career Col. Warlick began to recognize the networking and professional development value AFCEA offers.
Then, in 2007, former leadership and committee members of AFCEA’s Quantico Chapter requested the colonel to attend a meeting to determine the chapter’s future. The chapter president had requested that the chapter be terminated because of a lack of activity. “A group of 16 former committee members, presidents, active duty and industry leaders attended the meeting. After extensive discussion, the group decided to re-establish the chapter, and I volunteered to be the chapter president,” he explains.
During his two-year tenure as president, the chapter’s membership rolls grew by nearly 30 percent. In addition, the Quantico Chapter hosted the first U.S. Marine Corps Information Technology Day as it focused on acquisition and operations that support the Marine Corps as well as the companies required to support the service. The 4th Annual U.S. Marine Corps IT Day will take place at Quantico in April.
Col. Warlick credits his time as Quantico Chapter president for selection to his current position at AFCEA International. He emphasizes that his department exists to support chapters in many aspects. “This includes chapter organization, chapter functions, speakers, financial support when available and assistance to share best practices that are used throughout AFCEA,” he states.
Keeping two-way communications open and robust between AFCEA headquarters and chapters increases benefits to both, he adds. “I strongly desire to build a trust relationship between AFCEA International and the chapters. This can be accomplished by a strong outreach or visit program and from continuous communication from AFCEA International to the regions and chapters and from the regions and chapters to AFCEA International,” the colonel notes.
The colonel emphasizes one particular best practice learned from his experiences with AFCEA. He recommends that chapters continually focus on growing their membership base and developing committees “both to provide leadership opportunities and to spread the workload to help make the volunteer process more enjoyable and meaningful for all members.”