By Amy L. Bugala, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Public AffairsMarch 13, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - For 25 years, the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) has been providing Army communities worldwide with a "voice" in improving quality of life by initiating change. This year, that voice may be yours.
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii will tackle issues impacting the well-being of the community and celebrate the history and success of the program during the 2009 AFAP
Conference at the Nehelani, Schofield Barracks, March 16-18.
AFAP was created in 1980 through focus groups, and was fully developed with the first official conference in 1983. Its mission is to help Army leaders address the needs and concerns of the total Army Family.
The history speaks for itself.
"It works," said Tracey Clark, Army Community Service, AFAP program manager. "This is a process that truly works and allows community members the opportunity to tell their leadership what they need to get the quality of life they want."
For two-and-a-half days, 52 delegates comprised of Soldiers, family members, retirees, Department of Army (DA) civilians and veterans, will work to prioritize and discuss 49 quality of life issues concerning the community. This year nine service members will make up a work group devoted specifically to issues affecting single Soldiers.
"It's a very intense process and a lot of hard work, but it is work that makes a difference," said Sgt. Tony Wood, military police (MP) liaison, 13th MP Detachment, who has participated in AFAP conferences at both U.S. Army-Pacific (USARPAC) and at Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDA) levels.
Wood, along with hundreds of volunteers, has contributed to the annual list of results for the program.
During the past 25 years, 633 issues have been identified Armywide. AFAP has driven 107 legislative changes, 154 Army policy and regulatory changes, and improved 173 programs and services.
AFAP delegate Melissa Belis has lived in Army communities for more than 15 years and enjoys being part of the solution-building process. A veteran and military spouse, she said she believes in the program and has personally benefited from the initiatives that have come from the conferences.
"AFAP is responsible for service members receiving chiropractic care, for which my husband is extremely grateful," Belis said.
Although 90 percent of AFAP issues are resolved at the local level, 61 percent of active issues at the HQDA level are issues that impact all branches of military service. Since its inception, AFAP is the only such partnership between a branch of the U.S. military and its families.
Clark is passionate about the process and explains how the power of one voice can produce change.
"What can start off as a concern for me, an Army spouse, can change the face of not only the Army, but the Department of Defense (DoD). When we got new housing - that was DoD-wide, when there was an increase in SGLI (Service members' Group Life Insurance) - that was DoD-wide," she said.
She knows the Armywide results are the type of action that gives a Soldier, spouse or civilian a voice and the buy-in each needs to stick around. When asked if she has ever personally submitted an issue, she proudly responds, "Yes, I have."
The AFAP process doesn't end at the garrison level. Active issues are worked by the managing garrison directorate and tracked by a steering committee chaired by Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, until fully resolved and marked as closed. Issues that cannot be immediately resolved or that may require policy or legislative changes move forward to the USARPAC conference, here, May 27-29, and then to the HQDA level.
A closing ceremony and brief of the 2009 Hawaii AFAP issues will take place, March 18, 8:30-9:30 a.m. The community is invited to attend.
An Armywide celebration of the 25th Anniversary of AFAP will be held during National Volunteer Week, April 19-25.