A Fresh Start At The End Of World War II

The one constant through six wars and five name changes is Commonwealth One’s founding group of civilian and military personnel.

When Army Air Force Annex #1 Federal Credit Union was founded on August 19, 1944, it was a different world. Allied victory in World War II was less than 12 months away, but already some troops had returned home from overseas and were trying to resume the lives they had led before the war.

A group of 90 armed forces and civilian personnel from the US Department of Defense and an entity that would later become the US Army Corps of Engineers came together to found Army Air Force Annex FCU #1, which today is known as CommonWealth One Federal Credit Union ($323M, Alexandria, VA).

Volunteers initially ran the credit union, which established a welfare fund in 1946 to assist new employees at its SEGs with a $50 bridge loan for living expenses until the first paycheck arrived. In 1947, Army Air Force Annex #1 received an $800 loan to address liquidity from War Department Federal Credit Union now Pentagon Federal and one of several Department of Defense credit unions at the time. This was the first time Army Air Force Annex #1 had borrowed money, but not the last usually done with the intent to address liquidity needs and fund loans.

In 1946 the US Army Office of the Chief of Engineers moved to Gravelly Point, which is now part of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and the credit union followed, changing its name to Gravelly Point FCU in 1948. That same year, the credit union hired its first assistant treasurer at $1 an hour.

In the early 1970s, the credit union moved again, this time following one of its primary sponsors, the US Army Materiel Command, from Gravelly Point to Alexandria, VA. Once again, the credit union changed its name to become US Army Materiel Command Federal Credit Union. There would be one more name change before the credit union finally adopted its current moniker, CommonWealth One, in 1992. Through those five name changes, one thing remained the same: the credit union’s ties to military and civilian employees at the Department of Defense, which had been the cooperative’s founding SEG.

There have been five wars since the end of World War II, and in every single one, CommonWealth One has been a financial resource for both active duty and returning soldiers.

I remember during the first Gulf War, we made yellow ribbons and sold them to members for $1.00 to raise money for the USO, says CommonWealth One CEO, Charlotte Cash.

Today, the credit union’s field of membership extends beyond its original SEGs to include more than 200 sponsor groups as well as anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in two counties and two cities in Virginia as well as Washington, DC.

This week in honor of July 4, we invited five credit unions to share the story of their beginnings. Tune in each day to learn about another cooperative’s origins.

July 1, 2014

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