AFAP Conference
Master Sgt. Michael Whitaker, of 1st Brigade, discusses an issue during this week's Cadet Command Army Family Action Plan Conference at Fort Knox. Photo by Steve Arel/U.S. Army Cadet Command

Like their colleagues with the United States Military Academy at West Point, Army ROTC Cadets spend part of their officer development serving in lieutenant-level leadership positions with active duty units.

While the students might perform the same tasks and work the same amount of hours, financially, they're viewed as different.

Those from West Point receive a full per diem rate for the area to which they traveled, while ROTC Cadets get barely half.

Not that one Cadet is considered more valuable than another; that's just the way a 1969 law designed the compensation structure.

"Just because it's been that way doesn't mean it has to stay that way," said Capt. Shaun Myers, of the Florida Institute of Technology. "We believe equal work equals equal pay. We all do the exact same thing."

The per diem disparity was one of 13 issues addressed at this week's Cadet Command Army Family Action Plan Conference that wrapped up Friday.

Some 32 people from Cadet Command units across the country took part in the annual three-day conference at Fort Knox's Patton Museum. The delegates representing each of the command's eight brigades included a mix of genders, races and levels of leadership. Among them were professors of military science, brigade nurses, spouses and Cadets.

AFAP, as the program is commonly called, is an Army-wide initiative aimed at improving the quality of life for Soldiers and their families. Cadet Command is unique in that it widens the net to include civilians, Cadets and their families, said Christy Eplee, the command's Soldier and Family Advocacy Program coordinator.

Their aim was to consider issues raised by those within Cadet Command, determine possible solutions and rank which ones warrant attention from command leadership, which ones should be elevated to higher levels and which ones could be resolved by brigades or battalions.

The groups focused on issues involving several areas -- entitlements, force support, medical, consumer services and employment. However, all of them dealt with hardships -- some physical, some financial.

As for the per diem issue, delegates recommended the command advocate for a budget proposal to amend the current law to make entitlements between West Point and ROTC Cadets equal.
In looking at other topics, they also supported:

• Increasing housing allowances in high-cost areas where ROTC battalions are based;

• Authorizing Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance for newly commissioned second lieutenants waiting to attend the basic officer course and don't yet qualify for such benefits; and

• Increasing Morale, Welfare and Recreation funds to include all battalion cadre, staff and contracted Cadets rather than just active duty cadre.

Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith made no guarantees. Enacting change at the command level is much easier than attempting to rewrite Army policy or federal law, a process that can take years -- if ever -- to reach fruition, the commanding general said.

That, however, didn't diminish the importance of the representatives coming together to help improve the quality of life for those in the command.

"This process is going to help us see what the priorities are," Smith said.

Issues for consideration at the Army Family Action Plan Conference were solicited for several months earlier this year from throughout the command. Brigades selected conference participants, and attendees were chosen based on criteria to ensure diversity.

"There was a lot of good work going on," Eplee said. "They'll make a difference."

Page last updated Fri September 14th, 2012 at 00:00