Fort Belvoir residents, employees, Family and Soldiers discussed military quality of life issues during the Army Family Action Plan Symposium at the Barden Education Center.

The symposium, hosted by the Army community Thursday and Friday, gave participants the opportunity to focus on challenges that affect Fort Belvoir and the Army.

Volunteers were broken up into two groups: Entitlement/Benefits/Employment/ Medical/Dental and Housing/ Force Support/Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers/Family Readiness.

Each group discussed issues on post or Army wide that have been brought to AFAP's attention over the past year.

At the end of the second day of the symposium, the groups presented an issue or issues to Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, Col. John Strycula, Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane and Lt. Col. Dwayne Bowyer, Headquarters Battalion commander.

Housing/Force Support/ BOSS/ Family Readiness decided the issues they would present to the garrison command were the early termination of lease fees for privatized housing on post and priority for Exceptional Family Member Program housing.

Niko Hines, the delegate for the group who presented the issues is also a disabled veteran. She said her group debated 11 issues, but decided on termination of lease fees for privatized housing and housing accommodations for EFMP members because they are very important to current servicemembers.

"The problem we have with exceptional Family member housing is Soldiers that are coming here with exceptional Family members need housing," said Hines. "Housing at Belvoir will not offer priority housing for Soldiers just based on EFMP."

Spc. Heather Brown, Administrator to the Garrison Command Sergeant Major, said selflessness was a key factor in the group deciding which issues to present.

"If you come in close-minded and you just focus on your own problems and you aren't thinking for everyone, then you aren't using this program to its fullest advantage," Brown said. "You are just in here trying to make a change for yourself instead of trying to benefit everyone."

Entitlement/Benefits/ Employment/ Medical/ Dental decided the fact that servicemembers in the National Capital Region do not receive cost of living increases (COLA) is not acceptable and must change.

Robyn Butler, Army Community Service volunteer, presented for the Entitlement/Benefits/Employment/ Medical/Dental group. She said the group worked through seven issues before making their final decision.

"Some issues we needed more expertise from subject matter experts before we made a decision," said Butler. "We did determine that there were some issues that were more emotionally driven and they weren't something that is going to have a military-wide impact. We felt like the issue we picked was a paramount issue because it's something that impacts Soldiers military wide."

Spc. Tony Roderick, Headquarter and Headquarters Company, Special Activities, participated in the symposium for the first time. He said he was excited to get an opportunity to bring a positive change to the Army.

"I'm excited because it's a good opportunity for things to change when there's issues," Roderick said. "I was unfamiliar with how easy it could be to change deficiencies within the Army community."

Strycula said he was pleased with the issues that were presented and he liked how there was a local issue raised as well as one that could have an impact military wide.

He also said how the argument for COLA is phrased, before it is sent to the Military District of Washington, will play a key role in whether or not any change is made.

"We need to make sure we frame the issue in the right way to help educate everybody on why they think they need a COLA in the National Capital Region," said Strycula. "It is an issue that impacts our Soldiers and Families when they move into the National Capital Region. It's something we've got to make sure that everybody has visibility on and an understanding of the financial impact of the national capital area. I think it's an issue we need to bring up."

For more information on the 2012 AFAP Symposium, contact Faitheleen Henderson at Faitheleen.Henderson. civ@mail.mil or call (703) 805-4152.

Page last updated Thu November 10th, 2011 at 00:00