By Amy L. Bugala, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsMarch 27, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) delegates provided a voice for the community during the 2009 AFAP brief-out, here, March 18.
Delegates from four workgroups representing base operations, community/family services, force support, and single Soldiers spoke out about 12 quality of life issues and provided recommendations to Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, senior leaders, subject matter experts and community members.
"There was an interesting mix of issues this year compared to last year," said Margotta, commenting on the accomplishments over the past two days. "There are a couple local (issues) that we should be able to accommodate but quite a few are big Army issues."
Margotta said he isn't surprised to see the shift in AFAP issues. The Army's investment to improve the day-to-day lives of Soldiers and family members through initiatives like the Army Family Covenant and the development of local customer service programs has placed a "whole lot of effort at the local level," he stated.
Twenty-five years ago when AFAP was started, it was the only forum for community members to bring forward issues. Now a variety of methods address community concerns, like e-mail, the Installation Action Council (IAC), town halls and the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system, Margotta explained.
Mary Ward, volunteer AFAP trainer and coordinator, is a 12-year veteran of the process. Ward thinks the mix of issues this year is "fabulous."
"The trend toward utilizing other local forums to resolve problems saves the AFAP process for those big issues that affect everybody," she said.
Along with the issues, the group presented a list of the most valuable services in the community: Tricare; the commissary; Army Community Service (ACS); education benefits/services; housing; Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR); family readiness groups; Tripler Army Medical Center; Army Emergency Relief (AER); and the American Red Cross.
The base operations workgroup was the first to brief and recommended that all Army facilities be modified to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The group also recommended an increase in animal control officers and patrol hours and proposed that a school crossing guard program be established.
Of the 18 issues submitted to the family/community services workgroup, 11 were solved in the group and three were sent to the IAC. The group recommended that the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) and Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) facilities develop a standardized plastic bag recycling program.
According to the group, the current situation "is not in sync with the Army's 'Go Green' initiative." It recommended the agencies launch a program to provide an eco-friendly alternative to customers.
The group would also like to see designated parking spaces for expectant mothers at the Schofield Barracks health clinic.
The force support workgroup recommended that patients be authorized and reimbursed for the purchase of durable medical supplies outside of what is offered by Tricare.
The group also recommended hiring officials be provided the authority to specify additional qualifications on job vacancy announcements and lastly called for an equal percentage longevity pay increase, citing that inequity across the ranks affects morale and retention.
The single Soldier workgroup, comprised of nine Soldiers, was new to the conference this year. The group found issue with the hours of operation at child development centers (CDC) and dining facilities (DFAC).
According to the group, "The hours of operations for these facilities do not always accommodate the varying work schedules of Soldiers due to operational tempo and deployment train ups."
The group recommended extending DFAC hours, offering weekend service at all facilities and establishing a 24-hour CDC service to accommodate varying work schedules.
The group's last request was to implement a change in Army Regulation 601-210, to allow single parents or guardians to enlist in the Army.
Each of the issues presented by the workgroups will be actively tracked by a local steering committee until fully resolved. Issues that cannot be resolved or require legislative or policy changes move forward to the U.S. Army-Pacific conference here, May 27-29, and then to the Department of Army level.
Margotta closed the conference by thanking volunteers for their ideas, support and time, and marking another year of success for the program.