By By Heather Graham, Sentinel News EditorNovember 3, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Fort Hood's 2008 Army Family Action Plan conference was held Oct. 14-16 at Comanche Chapel. For two days, volunteer delegates, AFAP facilitators and subject matter experts weighed and discussed Family member- and Soldier-submitted policy and quality of life issues until each group had decided on its top three concerns.
Those issues and the groups' recommendations were presented to III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Garrison Commander Col. Bill Hill and other leaders on the installation during a report out Oct. 16.
With Lynch's campaign plan to be released soon, the commanding general said he would listen to the conference results and think about their recommendations.
"Tell me what I need to know," Lynch said before the brief out. "I want to listen. I want to understand."
Delegates voted on the most critical active Department of the Army issues. The most critical issue was the distribution of Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits to Family members.
The other issues included permissive TDY for paternity, the federal hiring process for wounded warriors, medical entitlements for college-age Family members, Family member employment in the civil service system, a convicted sex offendor registry, modification of the weight allowance table and inferior shipment of household goods.
Most of the conference was devoted to issues more specific to Fort Hood.
The six groups and each group's top three conference issues are as follows:
Child and Youth, Education
and Consumer Services group
Aca,!Ac Issue: Improve deployment and reintegration programs targeting elementary school-age children.
Recommendation: Expand current programs and require counselors to be knowledgeable about deployment and reintegration issues affecting elementary aged children.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Ineffective marketing of Child, Youth and School Services programs. Many Soldiers and Families are not aware of them and therefore, are unable to take advantage of the programs being offered.
Recommendation: Increase marketing and advertising funding for CYSS and implement new marketing campaigns to raise awareness.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Commissary baggers are giving inadequate customer service.
Recommendation: Create a head bagger position and require the head bagger and all baggers to complete an eight-hour customer service training.
Family Support group
Aca,!Ac Issue: No Food Stamp office on post.
Recommendation: Open a Food Stamp office near the Women, Infants and Children office. This was the group's top issue.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Existing facilities are too small or exposed to weather elements.
Recommendation: Build an indoor play area for children and parents that can be accessed by Department of Defense cardholders.
Aca,!Ac Issue: There is no centralized location for distribution of information about Fort Hood events, programs and agencies.
Recommendation: Establish a one-stop location for the distribution of flyers and the development of a clear link of the Fort Hood Homepage that provides easy access to the information.
and Benefits group
Aca,!Ac Issue: Soldiers are being charged leave following the death of an immediate Family member, per Army Regulation 600-8-10, Chapter 6.
Recommendation: Change Army policy to allow five days of permissive leave in a temporary duty status for bereavement. This issue is a DoD issue that would have to be addressed on that level.
Aca,!Ac Issue: No eco-friendly, low-cost public transportation on Fort Hood.
Recommendation: Establish a system. This was the work group's No. 1 issue at the conference.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Families are incorrectly under the perception they have to pay for a passport when traveling to visit their wounded Soldier. This creates undue stress and financial burdens on Families.
Recommendation: Launch a media and Web-based campaign to raise awareness about how Families acquire passports in emergency situations.
Force Support I group
Aca,!Ac Issue: Noncommissioned officers at mid-career level are not receiving bonuses or compensation as an incentive to stay until retirement.
Recommendation: Monetary compensation to an NCO who re-enlists for an indefinite status, regardless of the mode of service.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Fort Hood has inadequate facilities for deployment and homecoming ceremonies. Units use gyms and outdoor facilities for deployments and reunions.
Recommendation: Build state-of-the-art facilities with handicapped accessibility and Family-friendly designated child play areas.
Aca,!Ac Issue: With equipment reset, schooling, TDY, field problems and other required training, Soldiers do not have adequate dwell time with Families between deployments.
Recommendation: Increase dwell time to 18 months. This is a DoD-level issue, but, under III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch's policy at Fort Hood, Soldiers do not work on weekends or later than 6 p.m. during the week in an effort to increase Family time.
Force Support II group
Aca,!Ac Issue: Family readiness group representatives who are volunteers are using their personal cell phones to conduct FRG business. This creates a financial burden on the volunteers. In addition, with FRG representatives changing constantly, there is no central number to contact for FRG business.
Recommendation: Issue command-assigned cell phones be distributed to FRG representatives at the company level.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Fort Hood Regulation 210-56 is unclear, outdated and uses obsolete terminology regarding informal unit fund limits.
Recommendation: Update the 1994 regulation to reflect current changes to Army policy.
Aca,!Ac Issue: There is no public transportation on Fort Hood so Soldiers and Family members have limited access to services and agencies available on post.
Recommendation: Implement a public transportation system to provide access to major facilities, including housing, the hospital and other installation resources.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Analog thermostat systems in housing result in inefficient heating and cooling system operations because of inaccurate readings and lack of programming.
Recommendation: Replace analog systems with digital thermostats at no cost to residents.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Existing on-post housing rules and regulations are not being uniformly enforced.
Recommendation: Increase the number of Community Life NCOs and establishing monetary fines for those who do not comply with rules and regulations in housing.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Consistent standards are not maintained in the barracks because of the involvement of multiple agencies and programs. Recommendation: Designate a single entity that is authorized to establish and enforce standards in and around the barracks. This was the group's top issue.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Fort Hood Veterinary Services are limited to immunizations and minor sick call, forcing Families to travel off post and pay higher fees for pet care.
Recommendation: Expand on-post Veterinary Services to provide acute, emergency and surgical care.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Military Families are required to pay co-pay fees for prescriptions that are not carried in Army medical pharmacies.
Recommendation: Eliminate co-pays, which range from $3 to $23.
Aca,!Ac Issue: Retirees do not receive the same medical benefits as active-duty servicemembers. Payment of medical fees reduces the retirees' monthly income.
Recommendation: Eliminate retirees' co-pays and lowering the $3,000 catastrophic cap for retirees.
In addition to the work groups' issues, two unresolved concerns from the 2007 AFAP conference remain active: a consolidated FMWR, CYSS, ACS Building and parking for the Oveta Culp-Hobby Soldier and Family Readiness Center.
Calling the conference results "important and timely," Lynch said he would consider carefully what the delegates reported and follow through on their issues.