Teens, adults voice top concerns, solutions at AFAP conference

By Katherine Rosario
1st Inf. Div. Post

FORT RILEY, Kan. - Adults and teens presented solutions for their top three issues in five categories to post officials during the Army Family Action Plan Conference Oct. 7 at Riley's Conference Center.

The conference, which ran Oct. 2 and Oct. 5 to 7, focused on five categories: Force support and entitlements, medical and dental, installation support services and Family and consumer programs. Spouses and Soldiers were divided into each group and laid out a plan for their top three issues surrounding the topic.

Fort Riley teenagers met Oct. 2 in middle and high school groups to outline six issues they were concerned about and work out solutions to each of them.

Brig. Gen. Petersen, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley deputy commanding general-rear, said AFAP is a powerful tool in making spouses' and Soldiers' voices heard for change to take place.

"We need good ideas so we can prioritize them. If we do it here, that's super. If we can't do it here, we will pass it up the chain of the command in the Army," Petersen said.

Petersen said the idea for the new GI Bill was generated during an AFAP conference.

"That's really had a far-reaching impact," he said.

Petersen cautioned attendees to be mindful the Army's resources will probably diminish in the next few years and to remember that when asking for new services on post.

"It's time we take a good close look of how the Army's doing business and be better stewards of our taxpayers' dollars," he said.

Force Support and Entitlement

The Force Support and entitlement group's top three issues were spouse separation pay, dislocation allowance and inequity of housing on post.

The first issue the group asked for was career stability for spouses in the federal service sector. The group also requested for the married Army couple's program to be expanded to include federal employees' spouses on the career status.

The second solution is to authorize a Family separation allowance for a spouse in a government service position for at least three years.

Spc. Gabriel Estes, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., said the strain put on a Family when a spouse has to decide whether to stay or leave his or her current job to move with the Family compromises the five pillars of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.

The second issue asks for dislocation allowance for servicemembers graduating from initial entry training and relocating with Family members to their initial duty station.

The final issue presented was to provide better equity for on-post housing. The group's solution is to create neighborhoods based on rank, with the housing size and quality increasing as the rank increases.

Brian Beauregard, Picerne Military Housing's program director, said Picerne is working toward E-1 to E-5 housing areas.

"We don't have the product right now, and there was a tremendous need for four-bedroom homes for E-1 to E-3, and we made the decision to open up all four-bedrooms," he said.

He said the goal is to create an incentive to move up in the ranks.

Col. Kevin Brown, Fort Riley garrison commander, said housing assignments are driven by Family requirements and not rank.

"It's our obligation to give you what you need," Brown said.

Family and Consumer Services

The Family and Consumer Services group discussed the idea of opening more access control points on post to alleviate traffic jams during rush hours, to and from work.

The group's second issue was making an amendment to AR 608-1, Appendix. J-4 Paragraph A-1, which allows deployed Soldiers to hold key Family Readiness Group positions.

The solution is make the amendment read no Soldier may hold a key position 90 days before or after a unit's deployment.

Installation Support Services

The Installation Support Services group asked for more public transportation on post to and from the Post Exchange and the Commissary for Soldiers without vehicles. The group also suggested creating a flat-fee taxi service to provide rides to and from doctors' appointments or anywhere else on post.

The second issue the group asked for was a revision of the dog breed policy on post with a temperament test to prove a banned dog breed was not harmful to others in the community. A leash and muzzle regulation would be enforced to ensure the safety of others.

Traffic markers on post was the last issue the group initiated, with the solution to install bounce back pavement markers that will withstand the winter snow road conditions. The group also wanted to make sure signage was properly placed and highly visible to alert drivers of changes in the road.

Medical and Dental

The Medical and Dental group discussed the issue of Soldiers being deployed just days or weeks before their spouse was due to have a baby.

The solutions given were to authorize Soldiers, who were already separated from a pregnant spouse, to be allowed to return home within the first two weeks of birth. They also suggested a Soldier must remain with his or her spouse if she is due within 90 days of deployment.

The group's second issue revolved around the lack of chiropractic care available to active-duty dependents. The group said they believe the cost effectiveness of going to a chiropractor versus getting pain pills would serve as a better long-term solution.

Refractive surgery for Reserve component Soldiers was the last issue brought up by the group, who asked that Soldiers who qualified for the surgery be allowed to participate six months before deployment.

Middle School

Teenagers in the middle school-aged group discussed their issues in front of the adult AFAP groups and post officials to ask for a way to create a video diary to send to their parents who were deployed. They also asked for a Fort Riley Nature Center, so residents could learn about the wildlife and plants in the area.

High School

The high school aged-group asked for the creation of an Army Facebook page that would help them connect with new teens their age when they moved to a new town because of a permanent change of station.

Another issue the high school-aged group spoke about was the need for a Teen Warrior Zone, which could provide internships, volunteer opportunities and jobs for teens at the center. A sports complex housing an ice rink, ropes course, a rock wall, children's indoor playground and indoor field was also discussed.

Becky Willis, Army Volunteer Corps and AFAP coordinator, said this year's conference was smoother than previous ones.

"The training provided to delegates the day before the start of the conference helped to give them the expectations and intent of the conference," she said.

Willis said the issues brought up were a mix of ones the post could work on and others that would be up to the national conference to be discussed.

"It was obvious some will require regulation and/or legislative changes. There were other issues discussed in groups that will go before the garrison commander steering committee," Willis said.

Page last updated Thu October 14th, 2010 at 17:13