By Randy Tisor, Mountaineer staffNovember 13, 2008
FORT CARSON, Colo.-Army Community Service volunteers as well as active-duty Soldiers, Family member and retirees from around Fort Carson gathered together for a two-day conference to identify issues deemed important to the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families. The Army Family Action Plan conference, held Nov. 6-7 at the Elkhorn Conference Center, established five-key areas of concern for those living and working on Fort Carson.
The five main areas addressed, as determined by ACS, were consumer affairs, health services for wounded warriors, Family support, force support, and benefits and entitlements.
According to Nancy Montville, Family Enrichment Program Manager for ACS on Fort Carson, issues identified as a result of the conference will be presented to Army Forces Command for review.
"The issues that are prioritized at FORSCOM go on to the Department of the Army level." Montville said.
The number one issue that AFAP groups identified as critical to improving the quality of life on Fort Carson concerned benefits and entitlements for wounded warriors. The health services for wounded warriors, the focus group made two recommendations that they hope will be reviewed at the highest levels within the Department of the Army.
The first recommendation was to establish a medical system that identifies Warrior Transition Unit benefits available to nonwounded Soldiers. The second recommendation was to standardize benefits available to wounded Soldiers who meet the eligibility requirements of the WTU.
Other issues included providing pay grade based dental costing, addressing military voting challenges, upgrading security systems in the single Soldier barracks and developing a plan to allow Soldiers to split their basic allowance for subsistence to better reflect how they use the dining facilities. According to the AFAP participants, many single Soldiers who live in the barracks purchase and prepare much of their own food, despite not receiving BAS.
Another hot issue identified as key to enhancing the quality of life on Fort Carson was the need for a full-service restaurant on post. Several of the groups voiced their concern over the fact that current restaurants on post are often overcrowded and, for the most part, provide only fast food.
According to Montville, the process of identifying critical issues, prioritizing them and implementing the most worthy can be lengthy.
"The average issue takes about two and a half years to get through the system," she said. Montville added that some issues that affect only Fort Carson can be addressed in as little as weeks or months. She cited the lack of recognition that wounded warriors received when they returned to Fort Carson separately from the rest of their units; instead of coming home to an event center full of friends and Family and a celebratory atmosphere, wounded Soldiers most often returned to little or no fanfare. That changed as a result of an issue brought up during an AFAP conference a few years ago. Now wounded Soldiers are greeted on a quarterly basis during a welcome home ceremony held at the Java CafAfA on post.
Youth issues and issues regarding single Soldiers were also addressed, although both were the result of previous conferences sponsored by ACS.
By Montville's measure, the 25th anniversary year of AFAP was a success, although she said there is always room for improvement.
"Every year I try to improve the process. This year I plan to get more education down into the units through Family Readiness Groups and unit training so that more people know about AFAP."
Montville added that she is already starting to recruit volunteers for next year's AFAP conference.