AFAP: Focus groups zero in on local, Army quality of life
March 27, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - A group of community members gathered at the Rheinlander Club March 3-5 to address issues affecting Baumholder and possibly the entire Army.
The forum was the annual Army Family Action Plan conference. Delegates from throughout the community, military and civilian, young, and not so young, gathered to address everything from Soldier topics to youth issues. Melinda Thomas, Baumholder's AFAP conference coordinator, explained what AFAP is all about.
"Today we are focusing on quality of life issues here on Baumholder. We've had issues submitted to our AFAP conference that delegates today are prioritizing.
"So what they're doing today is focusing on issues that are going to better their quality of life in the Army. Leadership really takes a look at these issues and enters them into the AFAP, and then they look at those issues and they change policies or regulations. They make changes into funding for programs, and it's a great way to help our Army and implement lots of money into our programs.
"We have a variety of focus groups," she said. "We have a medical dental focus group. We have a consumer support focus group. We have a benefits and entitlements focus group, and we also have a teen focus group. This year we're going to be the first in the Army to actually have a focus group downrange."
"We had a facilitator who actually attended the Department of the Army AFAP two years ago. He has actually done a focus group downrange. They have completed. They have prioritized three issues. We will be out briefing their issues in conjunction with our focus groups' issues at our out brief to our garrison commander."
So how successful and effective is AFAP' With so many installations holding AFAP conferences throughout the world in hopes of elevating their issues to the Department of the Army level, you would think the chances of receiving attention at the highest level would be very slim. Do Washington and Pentagon officials ever get to hear what's on the minds of Americans in this small enclave of Germany' Do local issues ever make it to the top' Thomas said yes.
"Actually Baumholder has a very good record with submitting issues to the Department of the Army. We actually have one of the top five issues in the AFAP conference, which is the sexual offenders registry list. It's one of the top five DA issues within the AFAP conference that originated here in Baumholder," Thomas said.
Together with subject matter experts from the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder and other local agencies, the five focus groups met for three days to address everything from Soldier topics to exchange and youth issues. The five local groups plus the down range group prioritized 15 issues for the commander's consideration.
"Contrary to belief, AFAP is a year-round process. You have to plan yearly for the conferences, and issues can be submitted year-round. We're always accepting issues.
"If anyone wants to volunteer to be part of our steering committee meeting, we do meet quarterly," she said. "If anyone wants to be part of the AFAP process, stop by ACS and gather information. You can come by and we'll be happy to have anyone who wants to participate."