By Jacqueline LeekerFebruary 4, 2010
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Installation Commander Col. Jerry Blixt and Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane attend briefings every day. Monday's briefing at Belvoir's Youth Center was a little different.
This time, the briefing was given by a group of Fort Belvoir teenagers.
Customer Management Services offers a quarterly resolution process for installation issues called Community FIRST. The process is designed to provide continuous feedback by conducting focus groups of Soldiers, family members, retirees, teens, and the civilian work force.
Monday afternoon, teens had a chance to voice three different issues to Blixt and Berhane as well as recommend ways to solve those issues during Belvoir's first teen focus group.
High school students Jamaisha Enoch and Izaiah Robinson stood in front of the command team and peers to present their concerns.
"As our first issue, we would like to develop a program during summer camp to incorporate the opportunity to participate in concentrated activities instead of a standard curriculum," Robinson said.
"Basically, we would like to include activities such as cooking, photography, horseback riding, and journalism, in addition to already-scheduled activities" Enoch added.
As their second issue, the teens asked for more activities at the youth center year-round, such as dodge ball, hair and make-up classes, football, soccer, and art.
"Our third issue is we would like to create a forum to enable teens to give recommendations and feedback," Robinson said.
"We would like to create an anonymous box to submit constructive criticism. We would also like to conduct a monthly feedback forum for teens to establish what is going well, what is not going well and make recommendations for change," Enoch said.
After the teens presented their issues, Blixt asked them which issue was most important to them.
By a raise of hands, the youth voted on the ability to give feedback as most important, followed by more activities at the youth center, and then more activities at summer camp.
Berhane and Blixt then asked the teens what they liked about the Youth Center.
Answers ranged from the gym, to the art room, the TV, help with homework, ability to hang out with friends, a dance machine, and the computer room.
Blixt told the teens he was interested in meeting with them more regularly.
"I'm serious about having you spend time with us," Blixt said.
"You all have great ideas and it's good practice to go through this process. We need to know what's important to you. This is your home. We want it to be a place you choose to come to, a place that is safe and friendly."
After the briefing, concerns raised by the teens were forwarded to appropriate organizations on post.
"We farm out the information to leaders and they have a 30-day suspense to
respond," said Melissa Barnhouse, installation customer service officer.
Each quarter, the installation action council looks at the compiled responses and discusses each issue. If a decision is made, the results are publicized, if an issue still needs to be worked or modified, it is left open and pursued. The next meeting is in April.
A member from each constituent group makes up the installation action council, consisting of a teen, civilian, Soldier, family member, retiree, and the installation commander, who vote on each issue.
Each group meets at least yearly. The teen focus group is open to any Belvoir teen.
Blixt left the teens with a series of questions to consider when discussing issues, "Are we doing the right thing' Are we doing things right' What are we missing'" asked Blixt.
"This is all part of the Army Family Covenant, our promise to you. We don't pay enough attention to our youth. We truly value your input," Blixt said.