Top-Notch Army Community Service
January 8, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Fifth time. Zero defects.
Those are the golden words being repeated at Army Community Service these days as its staff, volunteers and all those it serves celebrate the organization's fifth successful accreditation by the Department of the Army.
The status makes Redstone's Army Community Service the first ACS to receive a fifth three-year accreditation certificate. The designation is fitting for an organization that also received the very first accreditation in the entire Army when the accreditation program began in 2000.
"This accreditation says that we're doing the right things for our customers and we're focusing on the priorities of our standards and mission," Redstone ACS director Sue Paddock said.
"This was a professional goal for us, and it sets us up as a leader among Army Community Service centers throughout the Army. We have a good reputation among the other ACS centers, and many of them call on us for advice when they are going through the accreditation process."
The 93 Army Community Service centers throughout the Army are reviewed for accreditation every three years. For a few of those centers, the accreditation comes after the initial review. But for many, the initial review will result in identified deficiencies that the ACS center has to address within three months to complete their accreditation process.
At Redstone ACS, the accreditation team of eight inspectors found no deficiencies that had to be addressed. The organization met all 203 ACS standards during the initial review.
"The standards are a living document of what we are supposed to do, of what right looks like," Paddock said.
Those standards reviewed ACS' overall management to include strategic planning, budgeting and record keeping; service delivery; and such services related to relocation readiness, employment readiness, financial readiness, deployment and mobilization, and Soldier and family programs.
"Some standards are weighted more than others. But to pass accreditation you need to meet all of the standards. We had 100 percent on all of our standards," Paddock said.
The success of Redstone's ACS is recognized by the installation's senior leadership, Garrison commander Col. Bill Marks said.
"This accreditation underscores why I say Redstone Arsenal is the best because of the professionals we have in all of our departments and directorates," Marks said.
"The level of care and passion our ACS employees and volunteers take in providing their customers with services is outstanding. This fifth accreditation is unheard of and it falls 100 percent in line with what we are supposed to be doing. I don't know any other organization that can do that."
Marks and Fox Army Health Center commander Col. William Darby participated in the accreditation process. Fox is involved because they handle the medical issues related to the Family Advocacy Program and Exceptional Family Member Program managed through ACS.
The review process showed "how much our people care about the little things. To be successful, you have to care about the details. It's deliberate," Marks said.
Paddock agreed with the colonel, attributing the success of the accreditation process to the staff and volunteers who work daily to ensure that military-connected families as well as Army civilian families in the area receive the support from ACS that they need.
"A lot of ACS centers have a hard time passing the accreditation process. They get new staff in who have never been through the process before and that makes it more difficult," Paddock said. "It's a very intricate accreditation process. The only way you can really pass it is if you keep your accreditation standards up all the time."
Those standards do change and evolve during the years between accreditation, and it's up to each ACS to stay informed as to how those changes can affect their programs, she said.
The knowledge, expertise and level of care of the Redstone ACS staff and volunteers make the organization a winner every day with its customers, Paddock said.
"We have a staff who have been here for many years because they really feel what we do every day is important and that we really make a difference in the lives of Soldiers, civilians, retirees and their families," she said.
Besides the internal workings of ACS, the accreditation review also looked at the support it receives from the community.
"We rely on many community organizations to get us through this process," Paddock said. "If there had been a show stopper with one of our supporters, it would have ended our process. The accreditation review involves many supporters within the community."
At Redstone ACS, each program manager is responsible for not only maintaining a high level of program activity, but also with documenting that activity in preparation for the accreditation process. This year was a challenge for Redstone ACS because it completed a major move of its offices from its old facility on Redeye Road to the Community Welcome Center on Honest John Road in late spring, just a few months before the accreditation team arrived.
But when it came time for the review, ACS' new home proved to be a positive.
"The inspectors loved our new facility. They were very impressed and said it was located in a perfect campus-like atmosphere," Paddock said.
During the four-day accreditation process, the inspectors reviewed the ACS files and reports; and interviewed staff, volunteers and customers. They met with Paddock at the end of every day to report their findings. She then, in turn, reported to Marks. At the end of the process, both Marks and Darby attended an out-briefing of the findings. The major strengths reported included:
• Family Advocacy Program maintains good working relationships within the community, there is positive feedback from parents and other customers, and there is 100 percent support from senior leadership.
• Mobilization and Deployment Readiness is well-integrated, and has exercised emergency action and disaster plans.
• Relocation program facilitates an innovative Youth Sponsorship training program.
• Management team includes an experienced director who provides leadership and mentorship to her employees, the ACS program is well-resourced and ideally located at the Community Welcome Center, and there is exceptional command support.
• ACS services benefit from an experienced and loyal volunteer corps.
• ACS hosts custom-tailored Army Family Team Building curriculum seminars throughout the Arsenal.
• Employment readiness has partnerships with both on- and off-post agencies.
"We are very fortunate in that we have great support from our community and we have wonderful leadership support," Paddock said.
"We are very blessed to have wonderful volunteers and dedicated program managers who want to go the extra mile in support of Soldiers, families, civilians, retirees and service members from all other branches."
In the end, the real winners of the accreditation are the customers the Redstone ACS serves every day, Marks said.
"Our Redstone ACS is a team of professionals with the same vision to provide the very best to those who have earned it," he said.