By Jason B. Cutshaw, USASMDC/ARSTRATMay 9, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Throughout the command, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Soldiers, family members and civilians came together May 1-2 to support the command's first virtual Army Family Action Plan via video teleconference.
USASMDC/ARSTRAT members at Redstone Arsenal; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fort Greely, Alaska; and Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, once again shared thoughts and ideas to help the command and the Army become a better place for members of the Army Family.
The Army Family Action Plan has been the voice of all components of Army families. AFAP is a primary tool for communicating with the Army's senior leadership and reaches across the Army to identify, prioritize and elevate quality-of-life issues to Army senior leaders for action and resolution.
After coming together, the team reported to Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, SMDC commanding general, and SMDC Command Sgt. Maj. James N. Ross on May 2 with issue titles and recommendations for him to take to Department of the Army headquarters.
"AFAP is important because it gives all of our families, Soldiers and civilians a voice to discuss issues in their local military communities and the ability to raise those issues to the highest levels of Army leadership," Ross said. "Just like Lt. Gen. Mann said, 'what you might think is an unachievable issue, you would be surprised, and the only mistake you can make in AFAP is being afraid to raise an issue.' The track record is pretty solid that we have been able to solve some very significant issues through the years by working them through the AFAP channels.
"The bottom line is that it is our voice," he added. "I really appreciate all of the hard work from all of our workgroups across the command. They have made this a success and worked hard to make SMDC a better place to serve."
The issues brought up to the command team are as follows:
Issue Title 1: Time for financial decisions by active duty surviving spouses and families
A). Establish specific timelines for casualty assistance decision points that provide a minimum of five days from the first meeting with the casualty assistance officer to make financial decisions.
B). Ensure that CAO training covers established timelines.
Issue Title 2: Restrictive USA Jobs applicant questionnaire process
A). Remove barriers to crossing from one career field to another or advancing in one's current field that are inherent in USA Jobs.
B). Provide a means to acknowledge applicant's experience outside the current career field by broadening the selection criteria.
C). Re-evaluate the subjective, self-evaluation rating scale currently in use on USA Jobs.
Issue Title 3: Lack of awareness of the Army Family Action Plan process
A). Provide Soldiers, family members, and civilians with information on AFAP as part of in-processing briefings.
B). Include AFAP information in leader training at all levels.
Issue Title 4: Financial hardships for Soldiers and their families
Recommendation: Develop comprehensive mandatory financial education and training for Soldiers to be provided at the unit level.
Issue Title 5: No emergency care providers for isolated Army communities
Recommendation: Establish an urgent care 24/7 emergency care facility on remote/isolated military installations.
The members of the Huntsville Workgroup were: Capt. Eric Sidio, spokesman; Candace Holcomb, facilitator; Staff Sgt. Melissa Betts, recorder; David Crouch, transcriber; and Abigale Ricks, web browser.
The members of the Colorado Springs Workgroup were: Ronald Bailey, spokesman; Melva Tillar, facilitator; Spc. Brandon Carter, recorder; 1st Lt. Joseph Bueno, transcriber; and Tisha Crespin, web browser.
During the conference, KC Bertling, SMDC Soldiers and Family Program manager, said AFAP is a program for all those who have any issues with quality of life as Army families.
One SMDC Soldier and leader talked about how team members can elevate issues to Army senior leaders.
"The importance of AFAP is that it provides an avenue for Soldiers, civilians and family members to bring to light a lot of issues that really impact the quality of life for the Army," said Capt. Eric Sidio, SMDC Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander and AFAP spokesman for SMDC at Redstone Arsenal during the teleconference. "It allows us to address concerns from the lowest levels all the way up to the Department of the Army level and make major changes that improve the quality of life.
"The delegates we have across the command are an awesome group of people who want to help improve the lives of everyone," he added. "AFAP is an excellent program to help improve the Army so we can make it a better place to serve our nation."
The AFAP program provides a mechanism for all individuals who comprise the Army's global force -- Soldiers of various ranks, dual military and single Soldier parents, retirees, Department of the Army civilians, survivors, wounded warriors and their family members to identify issues of concern that impact the quality of life of Army members.
The AFAP process operates at three distinct levels -- garrison and tenant unit issue submissions; Headquarters, Army staff issue vetting; and AFAP General Officer Steering Committee member command focus groups.
"My husband is active duty, so I am a part of the Army Family, and I can also represent the civilians because I am employed here at SMDC in Huntsville," said Holly Nichols, SMDC Future Warfare Center's Studies and Analysis Division, who has been involved with AFAP for three years. "I feel I can work for the issues AFAP brings up and try to get things better for everyone in the Army Family.
"I feel we need to get more awareness throughout the command of what AFAP does for the command," she added. "It would be nice to have more individuals get involved and bring in more ideas on how to address issues."
Since 1983, more than 700 issues have entered AFAP: with more than 500 issues resolved.
To learn more about AFAP, contact (256) 955-4082, or e-mail at Kum.C.Bertling.firstname.lastname@example.org.