AFAP conference generates ideas
Facilitator Nancy Stevenson helps delegates in a Family Support workshop prioritize issues at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Army Family Action Plan conference this week.

Forty-five delegates from Joint Base Myer- Henderson Hall community gathered at Spates Community Club Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss how to improve Army programs through the Army Family Action Plan. Delegates were divided into three panels - Family Support, Force SupportAcA "Entitlements and Medical - to sort through topics that impact the quality of life for Soldiers, Family members, retirees and civilians.

AFAP gives members of the Army - active-duty, reserve, and National Guard Soldiers, Family members, retirees, surviving spouses, Department of the Army civilians, and military technicians - a forum to voice concerns to Army leadership and make recommendations for change. Issues can be local or Army-wide and, depending on the recommended course of action, can be forwarded up the chain of command to the Military District of Washington and the Department of the Army.

Issues raised through the AFAP program have resulted in increased Soldier entitlements, better Family member employment opportunities and improved facility and relocation services for DA personnel.

''The Army Family Action Plan is one of the Army's principle programs to ensure that standards of living in the Army keep pace with changing times,'' said Col. Cameron Leiker, Headquarters Command Battalion commander, in remarks opening up this year's AFAP conference. ''By giving Soldiers, Families, retirees and civilian employees an opportunity to serve as the voice of the community, AFAP helps the Army become a better place to live and work for everyone. ''Your initiatives and feedback will ... help attract, employ and retain a well-qualified, high-caliber force, foster Soldier and Family satisfaction and stand up and improve programs that encourage confident self-sufficient and resilient Soldiers and Family members," he said.

Robin Cordovez, AFAP coordinator, said this year marks the 27th year of the Army Family Action Plan. She said delegates attended a training session last week to acquaint them with the procedures for the two day conference Aug. 24 and 25. The first order of business for groups was to sort through issues that had been raised through the year and to prioritize which were most important to put forward. A volunteer facilitator helped delegates stay on track during discussions, assisted them in evaluating choices and guided them in finding the right language to frame their issues. Putting felt marker to paper, volunteer recorders dutifully wrote down the essence of each issue on large tablets and hung them on the walls for group members to review and refine.

This was The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Courtland Divine's first time participating in AFAP. ''I would do it again," he said. ''It gives voice to issues that may affect you. It makes you feel a part of the process."

''It's been very informative," said delegate Sgt. 1st Class Holly Bingham of The Army Band. She said she learned a lot about the intricacies of child care available to military families.

Army Family member Michelle Detwiler had wanted to be a delegate at AFAP but missed the deadline for signing up, so she attended the conference as a designated ''observer," watching from the sidelines.

She said she got so caught up in the give and take, watching the delegates exchange ideas, that she found herself occasionally chiming in during the proceedings. Although her enthusiasm was appreciated, the facilitator let Detwiler know the rules didn't permit it. ''Next year," she said.

This is the 12th installation AFAP conference Ralph Sievers has attended. ''I keep coming back because it makes a difference," said the retired colonel. ''[AFAP] has solved many problems."

Family Member Andre Moss, a teenager, served as a youth delegate at previous AFAPs.

This year he was on the Force SupportAcA "Entitlements panel. He said the issues brought up this year seem weightier than what he's encountered before, citing as examples sexual harassment reporting procedures and parking problems the group discussed.

Reservist and Department of the Army civilian Keith Brevard was involved with AFAP before when stationed in Kansas and Germany.

''The issues are different here," the Force Support and Entitlments delegate. ''They're mostly geared toward the installation. They're not the broad universal issues I've encountered at other installations."

Family Member Jackie Anders, who served as facilitator for the Force SupportAcA "Entitlements group, has participated in other AFAP forums on other Army bases. ''It takes issues longer to get to the top at Fort Hood," she suggested, contrasting the Texas post with JBM-HH and its geographic proximity to Army leaders. ''Here you can see the decision-makers at the commissary," she said.

''It's nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be. I had no idea what I would be getting into," said Spc. Samual AllenJohns of Criminal Investigations Command, a first-timer who sat on the Family Support panel with his wife. ''I've tried to contribute," he said. ''It's very useful. I didn't know how important it was."

Col. Carl R. Coffman, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall commander, spoke at the concluding out-briefing, thanking delegates for volunteering their time

Coffman said AFAP helps support the Installation Management Command's six Lines of Effort, by improving Soldier, Family and Civilian readiness and well-being. ''This gets us on a single railroad track .... heading in the right direction," he said.

Coffman added that he hopes to incorporate Henderson Hall into next year's AFAP. ''We need to tap into that Marine knowledge," he said.

Recommendations put forward at the AFAP conference that will be forwarded to the next level include:

Aca,!Acenacting a basic military child care allowance similar to allowances for housing and subsistence

Aca,!Acchanging the current method of calculating cost of living to accurately reflect the current financial realities faced by active duty Soldiers and Families

Aca,!Acdeveloping a standard Department of Defense consent form for sexual assault victims to be alerted if their alleged offender becomes involved in another case

Aca,!Acincreasing designated parking and building a parking garage at the Summerall Field parking lot to address inadequate parking

Aca,!Acmaking Internet access available in all patient rooms in Army hospitals.

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