By Jim Hughes, Command Information OfficerMarch 5, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker leadership and staff put some action in the local Army Family Action Plan process by closing all but two of the 10 issues raised during the October conference.
Garrison staff and community leaders had already put a lot of work into addressing the issues, but didn't officially close any until a Feb. 19 Commander's Steering Committee meeting, said Justin Mitchell, deputy garrison commander.
"The Army Family Action Plan is an amazing grass-roots program that takes Army-level issues from the garrison level and gives us a formal forum to address them, shape them and forward them to the highest levels of the Department of Defense and government for consideration and resolution," Mitchell said. "We receive a lot of issues we can address locally, too, and we look at every one that is submitted.
"We have great Soldiers and Families here with real concerns," he added. "We tasked issues to the organization that handles the area of concern and then we meet with the local leadership to see if we can improve the quality of life here at Fort Rucker for everyone."
One of the two issues left open has been resolved, but the committee didn't want it closed until the solution was put in writing. The issue was the limited Commissary bagger employment opportunities for community youth.
The Commissary manager adjusted the age teens need to be to work as baggers to 16, and also opened up 30 percent of the bagger positions to be given to teenagers, said Barbara Throckmorton, Fort Rucker AFAP program manager.
The second item left open is the length of time it takes for retirees to receive disability ratings from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with community members saying it takes up to 18 months past a Soldier's separation date.
Despite working closely with the VA and Army Career and Alumni Program staffs, plus a media blitz and education campaign on the disability process, problems still remain. Mitchell said he will speak with the VA on improving the process.
Issues that were closed at the meeting:
* Child, Youth and School Services special needs staffing and training - the committee decided this was not a valid issue after researching the current programs and staffing. No increases are required due to CYSS programs already exceeding what is expected of them.
* Customer handicapped parking at Bldg. 5700 - A work order to create an additional seven or eight handicapped parking spaces is project No. 1 for end-of-year funds.
* Safety hazard on Division Road - It is unsafe to try to create bike trails due to limited space in the area. Bike trails, sidewalks and crosswalks already exist to get people to schools, facilities and living areas. After the new youth activities building is built in the area, new sidewalks and crosswalks will be built to get people to the new Bowden Terrace Neighborhood Center.
* Electrical billing in Fort Rucker housing - This issue claimed the billing process was inequitable in older homes with obvious energy efficiency flaws. The action officer, Van Danford, of the Directorate of Public Works, said "classic homes" are not metered and that his directorate and Picerne are on the lookout for homes with such problems. Picerne will work with residents on billing issues and continue a marketing campaign to educate residents on the process.
* Pest control in Fort Rucker housing - A move to a new contractor has improved this service, but more can be done as DPW officials recommended more funding. Plans for the removal of older homes will also reduce the number of pests in housing.
* Communication breakdown in information on medical policies A,A- Martha Frausto, Public Affairs representative from Lyster Army Health Clinic, said the clinic runs a new Web site that answers many of the questions patients have along with a commander's blog, hosts quarterly health care consumer meetings, and is looking into starting up a Patient Service Center.
* Eligibility for youth services membership - CYSS staff is working with legal and security officials to explore opening up special events to off-post, non-military affiliated youth as guests of Fort Rucker youth.
* Teen Center food services - The issue of a limited menu for teens will be fixed when the new youth activities center is built later this year. The new facility will feature a kitchen, snack bar and culinary arts area.
"I am very confident that the Garrison team addressed each issue with a 'can do' attitude," Mitchell said. "Several teams of people worked these issues to not only address the stated problems, but see what else we could do in quality of life areas to make Fort Rucker better. Many were resolved and the entire community will benefit from one person's idea and (his or her) willingness to bring it to the AFAP program."
Fort Rucker also participated in the Army-wide AFAP conference.
"This program is a great system and we had the opportunity to send one of our community members to the DA (Department of the Army) level conference and work issues from all over the world on behalf of the Soldiers and Families of Fort Rucker," he said. "Senior leaders listened to briefs on solutions to problems and will work them at that level or forward them to the Defense Department to resolve."