FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Tackling tough issues that face the military community is something Fort Rucker and Army leadership are committed to do, and one program provides a forum to make those community concerns heard.

Fort Rucker held its 2017 Army Family Action Plan Focus Groups Forum at the Wings Chapel Nov. 7 and 8 as a means to improve the quality of life of those on the installation by providing a forum where community issues and concerns can be heard and put into the hands of Army leadership, said Vernon Johnson, Fort Rucker Army Volunteer Corps coordinator.

The forum featured four core groups to tackle issues that concern different parts of the community, including community, force support, family support, and medical and dental support.

Teams worked over the course of two days and submitted 36 issues, but of those submitted, five were elevated as the most important and presented to Fort Rucker leadership, including William G. Kidd, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, who said it's because of volunteers who work out these issues that makes a difference in the community.

"Your input, the work that you've done, the investment of your time and your talent, and your initiative, empathy and care has made a difference," Kidd said. "You put together three dozen really good concerns and issues, and we briefed a handful of those today as the top issues, and those are really outstanding issues that will touch the lives of our Soldiers, our families and everyone that serves here at Fort Rucker."

This year's top issues from each group included: damaged and non-existent sidewalks from the community group; impact of mandatory uniform change from the force support group; lack of family fitness area in physical fitness centers and safety of playgrounds in housing areas from the family support group; and inadequate parking at Lyster Army Health Clinic from the medical and dental support group.

The majority of the issues will be worked out at the garrison level, and those that can't be dealt with locally will be forwarded up to the Installation Management Command level, said Kidd.

"It takes about a year for AFAP to go through its process," said the deputy to the commanding general. "A lot of those will be worked here at the installation level and you'll get some feedback on what the plan of attack is on some of those."

Many of the issues take time to work through, said Kidd, so those who worked on the issues during the forum shouldn't get discouraged, but proud of what they were able to accomplish -- providing a voice for the community.

"You can look back with pride that you started that here in this little chapel -- but that's how things are done in the Army," he said. "There is no board of directors that figures these things out in the Army -- how would they know? If you're in the halls of the Pentagon … they don't get to see the cracks in the pavements, so your input really pays off."

AFAP is in its 34th year and in that time the program has helped implement 135 legislative changes, 185 Army-level changes and about 205 programs, said the deputy to the commanding general.

In past years, more than 685 different recommendations have gone forward to improve quality of life for Soldiers, family members, civilians and retirees. In 2012, the No. 1 issue at the Army-level AFAP conference was started at Fort Rucker, and it all begins with the people in the community, said Kidd.

"People like you have put together some concerns that have changed the Army," he said. "This service has allowed us to do some things that have really benefitted family members, Soldiers, retirees and veterans.

"I want to thank you again for what you've done for us here at Fort Rucker," Kidd continued. "For putting all of these concerns together, but also for your investment in our Soldiers, our families and in our Army in general, because it really matters. I encourage you to keep that up."