SCHINNEN, Netherlands -- A suggestion originating from the Tri-Border Army Family Action Plan conference, hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen this past February, has been selected as one of two European issues that will now be forwarded to the Department of the Army's AFAP for inclusion in its annual conference. If resolved at the DA level, the results could impact military communities around the globe.

The issue involves discretionary use of the military spouse preference (MSP) when applying for permanent federal jobs. Military spouses currently are not permitted to choose when or if they invoke MSP status when applying for permanent federal employment. During the employment application process, spouses are automatically listed as MSP eligible, but as soon as the military spouse accepts or declines the first job opportunity offered, their MSP status is lost. This inability to selectively use MSP hampers the financial and professional goals of military spouses, AFAP participants noted at the Tri-Border AFAP Conference.

"This is another family matter that deserves a review at the highest level," said Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army in Europe, "which is why I'm approving it to be forwarded to the Army's DA-level Army Family Action Plan General Officer Steering Committee."

Gen. Ham approved the Tri-Border's MSP issue and one other issue for DA-level consideration as part of the European AFAP Steering Committee Meeting held in Heidelberg, July 17. During that meeting, 14 concerns raised at installations around Europe were reviewed. From those 14, the two selected for higher level review were from USAG Schinnen and USAG Vicenza, Italy.

Vicenza's issue addressed restricted reporting for sexual assault victims. Under the Army's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, only active-duty Soldiers have the option of restricted reporting, meaning a Soldier may choose to report a sexual assault and receive services without triggering an investigation or command-level involvement.

During the Vicenza AFAP Conference, it was noted that family members and civilians are not afforded the same opportunity to report and receive services without triggering an investigation. A sexual assault information paper that went to all participants of the USAREUR steering committee stated that "the risk of public knowledge and retaliation affects the number of reported cases, decreasing the number of those who seek treatment, thereby adversely affecting the Army's overall mission."

"Frankly, I was astounded when I heard about this difference in the reporting of a crime that is so devastating to victims," Ham said. "It needs to be changed."

This year marks the 25th anniversary of AFAP. Over that time, AFAP initiated some 107 legislative changes, 154 policy changes and 173 improved programs or services that benefit all branches of the U.S. military.

"I hope the spouse preference issue, which originated here with the Tri-Border AFAP Conference, along with Vicenza's restricted reporting issue will be among the next beneficial service-wide changes we see coming out of AFAP," said Trudy Wheatley, USAG Schinnen's AFAP Coordinator. "It just shows how much your input really does matter in bringing about positive improvements in all our military communities."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16