Town Hall addresses spouses' concerns
December 6, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (6 Dec. 2012) -- Evening child care, power of attorney use and tax center hours were some of the topics brought up at a dedicated town hall meeting for spouses of deployed and soon-to-be deployed Soldiers Nov. 27 at the Graham Resiliency Training Campus.
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, led the session which gave spouses the opportunity to ask questions and address their concerns about Fort Sill and its support services. About 70 people attended the meeting, which had every directorate and unit leader represented as a subject matter expert.
McDonald opened by welcoming and thanking the spouses for attending, and then he immediately fielded questions.
One spouse wanted to know the availability of MWR child care in the evening for small groups of spouses who want to attend functions.
The post child care centers offer extended hours with all the day amenities including feeding, said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director.
If feasible, child care providers can also go to the site of the function, such as the town hall meeting, and provide care there. Information numbers given out for the Child, Youth and School Services were 442-3927/4836/3486.
The post also has 26 Family Child Care homes, whose providers must meet the same care standards provided by the child development centers, Spencer-Ragland said.
Another option is the MWR-certified baby sitters directory, she said. There are currently 12 baby sitters on the list, and they are certified in first aid and CPR. The list is updated quarterly.
A working spouse wanted to know if the Installation Tax Assistance Center offered evening or weekend appointments.
Lt. Col. Mary Card-Mina, Fort Sill deputy staff judge advocate, said the ITAC will open Jan. 16, and in addition to weekday hours it will offer services on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
McDonald gave an emphatic endorsement of Army ITACs: "We will file our taxes through them; we have for the last several years."
One spouse noted she was having difficulty using her general power of attorney on post, especially at banks who require a special power of attorney.
McDonald agreed with the spouse on having a general power of attorney if that's what the couple decided. He said all organizations on post should honor it, however, he does not have authority over private businesses, such as banks and credit unions.
"If you are an organization on post who will not accept a general power of attorney, I'd like to have a conversation with you," the general said. He said he would look into the matter.
Another spouse asked if self-defense classes for spouses were offered on post.
Shane Dunlevy, MWR community recreation officer, said such classes are occasionally offered. He provided contact information for Garrison fitness coordinator Claudia Mejia, 442-6652/6171, who schedules fitness classes.
Col. Paul Hossenlopp, Garrison commander, added the post has partnerships with local off-post clubs for such classes and other activities at no cost to spouses.
A spouse in uniform noted the recent resource cutbacks, and asked if there were going to be more cuts here.
"Fort Sill has already taken the cuts it was anticipating, so unless more budget cuts are implemented the level of services here should stay where they are now," said McDonald. Two programs that had been cut were reinstated after ways of paying for them were discovered and through careful management, he added.
"If sequestration [mandatory cuts to federal programs] kicks in, then that's another half-a-billion dollars that the military, not just Army, is going to have to absorb," McDonald said.
A spouse wanted to know about Fort Sill's recent Army Family Action Plan conference prioritizing family readiness and how the FCoE was addressing that.
The general explained although AFAP delegates prioritized the top five or six issues, Hossenlopp presented him with a plan of how Fort Sill will methodically address all the issues the delgates came up with and with specific solutions.
"The process is moving and we intend to address everything we can," McDonald said.
Hossenlopp plans to meet briefly with the AFAP delegates about mid-year to inform them of what the command has done the past six months to address the issues.
One query concerned the many different payment codes that appear on the leave and earnings statement (LES) of a deployed Soldier and how to learn more about them.
Army Family Team Building Class Level 1 (a.k.a. Army 101) teaches reading the LES as well numerous other topics for spouses as an orientation to the Army, said Connie McDonald, Fort Sill first lady. The class is for spouses who are new to the military as well as those who have been in awhile. Classes are offered monthly.
General McDonald concluded by again thanking the spouses.
"Let me thank you for your sacrifices, and don't ever think that just because you're not the one going off to a combat zone that you aren't contributing heavily to the defense of this country," the general said. "Your Soldier downrange is able to do their job because they know you're doing OK, and that you have the ability to be self-sufficient."
At the end of the 45-minute meeting, directors and leaders met with individuals who wanted to discuss personal or other matters privately. A Fort Sill telephone directory was also available to all attendees.