By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneOctober 16, 2009
Nicki Swindle is looking for a few good volunteers.
And you can be one of those volunteers if you have an association with the military and Redstone Arsenal; the desire to listen, question and follow through with quality of life issues as they are presented; the ability to work in a team to identify, develop and prioritize issues; and, above all, the commitment to making a difference in the lives of servicemembers, retirees, Army civilians and their family members.
Oh, and one last requirement - you have to be able to participate in a two-day Team Redstone Army Family Action Plan conference set for Oct. 27-28 at the Officers and Civilians Club.
"We need delegate volunteers," said Swindle, the quality of life program manager for Army Community Service. "We already have our facilitators, recorders, transcribers and issue support volunteers. But we need delegates with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. We need delegates that represent active duty, DA civilians, retirees, and active duty, retiree or DA civilian spouses."
Thirty volunteer delegates are required by the conference. They are divided among three issue groups - medical/dental; benefits and entitlements, including traffic, transportation, personnel, finance and housing; and consumer services, including Commissary, PX and Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation activities.
"The delegates do not have to be experts in these areas. We have subject matter experts that will provide them with the information they need to make decisions," Swindle said.
Delegates work in their groups to review issues and brainstorm new issues, ask questions and conduct research involving subject matter experts, choose the group's top three issues, write issue statements and then present them at the end of the conference.
"Everybody has a role in this process," Swindle said. "We want the delegates to feel comfortable enough to share their opinions. There are no uniforms, no ranks, no last names. Everyone is equal in this process. This conference gives people a voice, a way to get involved in change. But this isn't about personal agendas. We need delegates who want to see positive change come out of the process."
During the first day of the conference, delegates introduce, review and discuss issues. They then vote within their group on the three issues they want to address during the conference.
"By the end of the first day, they should have their three issues they want to work on," Swindle said. "Some work may have already been done on the issues. On day two, the groups discuss and research the issues; finalize their issues and prepare for the out-briefing. It can be very intense because some people feel really passionate about things. You really have to work hard. But it's also a good environment. The groups really know each other by the time the conference is over."
Besides delegates, the conference relies on several volunteers - facilitators, recorders/transcribers, issue support staff and observers -- who work in support of the conference.
Volunteer facilitators oversee the group activities and ensure that conference rules are followed.
"Facilitators make sure the process runs like it's supposed to and that everyone fills their roles," Swindle said. "They keep everyone on topic. When discussing issues, sometimes things can get a little heated. When that happens, the facilitator pulls the delegates back in and makes sure they stay focused on the issue. They make sure the group's timetable and roles are adhered to."
Recorders/transcribers are the secretaries of each group, taking notes on discussions, making sure all delegates have the opportunity to provide their input, and ensuring the group's concerns on an issue are voiced in its issue statement. The issue support staff ensures that issues being discussed are new to the AFAP process, ensures that the wording of issue statements is correct and makes sure there are no problems with an issue statement. Observers often view the proceedings, but are not allowed to participate. The conference also includes subject matter experts who provide information and answer questions on the various issues.
Team Redstone commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles, Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli and other members of the command group are involved in the AFAP Steering Committee. Myles is scheduled to be present during the out-briefing of issues.
Once issues are identified and stated at the local level, Team Redstone's command group reviews the issues and works issues that are local to Redstone Arsenal. Issues that pertain to the Army as a whole are submitted for consideration at the Army Materiel Command AFAP conference, set for December or January, and, possibly, at the Department of the Army AFAP conference, set for March or April. Redstone Arsenal sends two delegates to each of those conferences.
"Anything that is not dealt with here, goes up to another level," Swindle said. "The issues don't just stop here. Nothing dies in the water. Every issue is addressed and resolved. As a delegate, you can really potentially affect a lot of servicemembers' lives."
To volunteer as a delegate, visit the FMWR website at www.redstonemwr.com and follow the link to registration. For more information, contact Swindle at 876-5397 or firstname.lastname@example.org.