Conference gives voice to Families
October 18, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 18, 2012) -- Delegates from all aspects of military life gathered Oct. 10 and 11 at Wings Chapel on Andrews Avenue to discuss how to improve Army programs through the Army Family Action Plan Conference.
Delegates were divided into four workgroups to sort through topics that were submitted over the past year that impact the quality of life for Soldiers, Family members, retirees and civilians, said Shellie Kelly, Army Family Action Plan program manager.
The conference gives the entire Army Family a way 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, Kelly said.
"These issues will now be worked in the AFAP steering committee meetings. Some will be worked and completed here at Fort Rucker or deemed unattainable and some will be elevated to the Training and Doctrine Command level," she said.
Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, opened the conference by telling the delegates about the importance of AFAP and the fact that Fort Rucker has a reputation for bringing forth issues that make it up to the Department of the Army.
"This is your opportunity to make a difference. Be collegial, collaborate with each other and cooperate," he said.
The delegates are selected through an operation order to have a wide demographic before being divided into the workgroups. The four workgroups are: retail/leisure/community workgroup, entitlements/force support workgroup, Family support/civilian workgroup and garrison support workgroup.
"We have everyone from junior enlisted Soldiers to senior officers, from veterans to Department of the Army civilians and Family members," said Kelly.
The delegates seek to understand what the issues are, determine if it's really a problem, why it is a problem and what it would take to fix it.
"A lot of people have had good input, and I can really see some good recommendations forming. I really feel that my input is being listened to. We have great minds at Fort Rucker; I wouldn't expect anything less from my Branch," said Staff Sgt. Adam Loera, NCO Academy.
For individuals who have encountered quality of life issues or problems, the AFAP conference is how their voices get heard. Others, though, may think that their voice doesn't matter, but Kelly insists that many programs that people are familiar with started at the AFAP Conference.
"People may not realize that it is here that change is often made. Take Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. Soldiers like the trips and the opportunities, but they don't understand how it came to be. It was AFAP," she said, adding that the number of AFAP submissions almost doubled for this year's conference, proving that people are beginning to understand the difference they can make.
Ryan Yearicks, Army spouse, veteran and delegate at the conference, said if the other groups worked together as his did then great things should be expected at the report out.
"We dug down deeper into some of the topics that we had to address. Some of the issues brought forth just scratched the surface, so we had to address a problem that was causing the issue. That's what makes me feel like we truly are helping," he said.
Once the delegates came to a consensus on the top issues per workgroup, they came together for the report out.
Mangum and Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander, heard the top issues from each group and shortly after the conference voted on the issues brought forth in the report out to decide which were the Top 5 issues overall.
The Top 5 Fort Rucker priority issues were post traumatic stress disorder guidelines and education for transitioning service members, the elimination of additional duty service obligation for Post 9/11 GI Bill transferability, to streamline the referral system at Lyster Army Health Clinic, to combine the military and contractor secret security clearance transferability to civilian security clearance and the inclusion of seventh grade in Fort Rucker schools.
"Ninety percent of problems that come in are fixed at the garrison level," said Kelly, though this year's Top 5 problems, according to Mangum, cannot be fixed locally.
"These are good issues. These are some of the more thoughtful issues that I have seen come from an installation. But as I look at these Top 5 issues, none of these are really ours to fix here at Fort Rucker, because we cannot address them [locally]," he said, adding that although other local issues didn't make the Top 5, those issues will soon be dealt with here at Fort Rucker.
The conference was deemed a success by delegates, senior leaders and conference coordinators.
"The best thing about the military is that we can come together from such varied backgrounds. Everyone involved cares and works hard to produce a quality product that improves people's lives," said Kelly.