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Vanessia Holland, an Army Emergency Relief manager for U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg's Army Community Service, speaks to unit representatives during AER training in Bamberg Feb. 28.

BAMBERG, Germany (March 2, 2011) -- Warner Barracks in Germany is one of 22 pilot sites selected to assess a new service-delivery design within Army Community Service that may overhaul the way ACS collectively operates.

ACS will begin assessing the new design beginning March 1, which will allow for the organization to operate as a directorate, independent of Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

The intent of the transformation is to provide better services that support and strengthen the Army community, said Rickcord Gibbons, Bamberg's ACS director. This will be done through placing an emphasis on cultivating a more knowledge-based workforce and getting ACS employees more involved with the community, she said.

"It's a good thing," Gibbons said. "Over the years, it has changed from a help-the-spouse organization into a broader function of the garrison."

ACS was established in 1965 to provide support and assistance to Soldiers, retirees, Department of Defense civilians, and family members.

Gibbons, who has almost 30 years of experience working for or with ACS as a volunteer, contractor and federal employee, recalls the organization as being known in the past as a place for getting items from the lending locker, arranging meetings for spouse groups and helping spouses find a job.

"Fifteen, 20 years ago, this worked pretty well," she said. "We still do all that, but we've expanded it to the point where we are starting to include the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, providing resiliency training to family members and civilians, and working with the garrison directly to make sure that the support to families is what it should be and that we are bringing the family issues back to the garrison level.

"We are much more a professional organization now. Because of the professionalism and because the change of our mission and focus, it was about time that ACS essentially came out from under MWR and assumed its place at the table."

There are two levels of transformation that will take place with the pilot design, Gibbons said. One part of the transformation will focus on internal processes that will not be visible to the community, but the other part of the transformation should be apparent.

Through garrison focus groups and surveys, Soldiers and family members reported they have both too much and too little information on available services.

To help address the findings, ACS is transforming staff to operate as either specialists or generalists with an area of expertise to get information on specific services and programs out to the Army community members.

ACS members will be more visible in the community. Some generalist and specialists might be placed on a unitAca,!a,,cs training schedule, Gibbons said. They may set up information booths throughout the community.

"The first person that a customer sees when they come into ACS should have a solid understanding of everything the organization does, so that they can quickly help the person with a level of information," she said. "Absolute information should be answered by a specialist."

Generalists will be able to provide community members with information on programs and services ACS offers, Gibbons said. Generalists will provide many baseline services, while specialists will be available for the more complex and extended services.

Some positions within ACS require licensing, while others like the mobilization and deployment readiness require certification and training.

ACS assists commanders in maintaining individual and family readiness, and helps to deliver services that promote self-reliance, resiliency, and stability in one's life.

ACS is able to meet the needs of many in the Army community through the organization's programs and services, which include the Army Emergency Relief, Exceptional Family Member Program, Army Family Action Plan, Army Family Team Building, information and referral system, financial readiness program, employment readiness program and relocation assistance program.

"The organization has matured," Gibbons said. "ACS, as an organization, takes in the heart of the people, organization and the folks we support to help them maintain stability. That's what this whole transformation is about."

Page last updated Wed March 2nd, 2011 at 02:05