Fort Drum teens brief garrison commander ahead of AFAP conference
November 21, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Fort Drum teens brought their top concerns before the garrison commander Thursday during a private outbriefing of the 2012 Fort Drum Teen Army Family Action Plan conference at Army Community Service.
"We came up with the condition of the athletic fields, and cigarette butts and empty (containers) of alcohol in the playgrounds, as being two of the most important issues," said 15-year-old Kevin Gregory, this year's Teen AFAP spokesperson.
"Holes in the field means you will, at a minimum, fall and 'face-plant' it, or, (worse), twist an ankle and break a wrist," he said. "And (regarding) playgrounds, there is no (postwide) policy banning smoking and alcohol use in all playgrounds. Children on playgrounds are being exposed to secondhand smoke, cigarette butts, broken bottles and negative role models.
"Younger children, who love to stick stuff in their mouths, (could) eat cigarette butts," added Kevin, whose 17-year-old sister, Brittany, also participated in the Nov. 13-15 conference.
During the week, teens engaged in brainstorming sessions with ACS co-facilitators Lori Starr and Michelle Wojcikowski to come up with issues they believed were worth tackling, including what Fort Drum facility or service lacked something or could be improved upon.
"They came up with 15 or so issues," Starr said. "For example … we already have a policy in place regarding curfews, but they questioned whether it needed to be edited."
After compiling their concerns, the teens narrowed the list to three top issues -- two of which they would ultimately work on.
Issue 1: No postwide policy banning smoking and alcohol use in all playgrounds.
Recommendation: Institute a policy banning smoking and alcohol use on playgrounds postwide. Post no-smoking / no-alcohol-use signs. Require military police to enforce the policy.
Issue 2: Bare areas, rocks, holes, tall grass and unlevel terrain create unkempt / unsafe athletic fields by Magrath Gym and behind Pine Plains Bowling Center.
Recommendation: Provide better maintenance / grooming of athletic fields.
"This really is a great first step to getting these kids used to voicing their opinion and knowing they can make a change just by speaking what they feel," Wojcikowski said.
Before the outbriefing, Wojcikowski helped teens produce two anecdotal videos of each issue for the presentation and to use again at the main AFAP conference.
"We wanted to demonstrate how unsafe these fields are," said 12-year-old Brianna Garretson, one of six youths involved in making the videos. "They could maybe plant more grass, so there is less mud. That way, kids can come out and play safe."
Kevin, whose father is Maj. Karl Eric Gregory with 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, will present the videos during January's conference.
"I am really happy that we were able to come down to these two issues," Kevin said. "I think they are important enough to address."
AFAP is the Army's grassroots process for identifying and elevating the most significant quality-of-life issues that impact the community.
Since 1983, more than 650 issues raised by Army installations worldwide have reached the Department of Army level. Approximately 500 of those issues were resolved through positive changes; 123 of them became a part of U.S. law.
"Those issues came from people just like you," Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander, told teens and parents Thursday evening. "I want you guys to recognize that. What you do makes a difference."
Rosenberg noted that the two issues teens raised could be resolved locally.
"Sometimes, the issues that people raise -- and they get raised by children as well as adults -- are issues that we can't fix locally," he explained. "Those issues get rolled up and pushed up to the next level. If they can't resolve them regionally, they roll them up and they go to the Army level."
Rosenberg thanked the parents of the teens for letting their children get involved. He also encouraged parents to participate in the main AFAP conference in January.
"If there is a problem out there and I don't know about it, I can't fix it," he said. "We don't always see everything, and we certainly don't see everything from other people's perspective.
"That's why I need that feedback," Rosenberg added. "That's how we make things better."
The conference concluded with the colonel presenting certificates of appreciation to teens and adults involved in making the week a success.
"Thank you all for your participation," he said. "You should all be very proud of yourselves."