Improving military communities: AFAP still strong after 25 years
January 31, 2009
SCHINNEN, the Netherlands (February 2009). Increased military annual leave carryover . . . extended educational benefits for spouses . . . dental and vision coverage for federal employees . . . these are just a few of the recent success stories the Army Family Action Plan Conference produced. But AFAP, as it's more commonly known, has been tackling tough issues for 25 years, often generating solutions that benefit the whole military community.
Held every year at Army installations around the world, AFAP Conferences bring together service members, family members, DoDDS employees, retirees and military leaders to identify issues impacting their communities and to offer solutions for resolving those issues. This feedback produces changes that become tangible improvements at local installations.
About 90% of AFAP issues are worked at local levels, but some issues trigger review at higher levels, resulting in military-wide policy revisions such as the increase in annual leave carryover days that military members now enjoy (from 60 to 75 days). That change came out of issues elevated to higher headquarters during last year's AFAP worldwide conferences.
USAG Schinnen hosts this year's conference in the Tri-Border area on Feb. 17 - 18, at the JFC Conference Center in Brunssum. Trudy Wheatley, USAG Schinnen's AFAP Coordinator, says "It's a process that lets service members and families say what's not working - and make suggestions on how to improve or fix it."
Wheatley notes that 61% of the active AFAP issues that rise to the Department of Army produce outcomes that impact all the Services. She cites examples like military pay, education benefits, school liaison officers, survivor benefits, annual leave carryover (noted above), and many more that resulted in positive changes for all the Services in recent years.
The issues that rise above the local level are vetted at the major command level. Tri-Border AFAP issues are consolidated into IMCOM-E issues. Those consolidated issues will then be shared with delegates at the European AFAP, scheduled June 1 to 5 in Heidelberg. USAG Schinnen will send two to three Tri-Border delegates to that conference. Ultimately, AFAP issues that rise to the headquarters level are worked by Army staff and DoD agencies.
A board of key DoD, Army staff general officers and senior executive service representatives give AFAP its real "teeth." This board, the AFAP General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC), reviews the progress of AFAP issues on a semiannual basis. The GOSC makes final decisions on the status of all issues, determining if an issue is resolved, unattainable or needs to remain active.
"That's why it's so important for everyone to participate in this year's conference. Members from all four military branches live and work in the Tri-Border area. This is a golden opportunity to hear from those different perspectives and generate change that will improve all our military communities," Wheatley urges.
To participate, call or email Wheatley at USAG Schinnen's Army Community Services: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0031-46-443-7500. Registration for the conference begins at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 17 in the JFC Conference Center foyer. The conference runs 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. Lunch and childcare are provided.
For those who can't attend in person, issue forms are available to send in written comments that will be read at the conference. Look for issue drop-boxes around the Tri-Border area. Issues can even be submitted anonymously, Wheatley says.
"We don't want people to feel uncomfortable merely because they're raising an issue. Maybe it's an issue other people struggle with too. The whole point of AFAP is to give military community members a voice in shaping their standards of living," she stresses.