By Sgt. 1st Class Michelle M. JohnsonMay 11, 2010
"We'll take this one on," said Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of the 8th U.S. Army, followed by raucous applause from the 11-member Family support work group at the 2010 8th Army Family Action Plan Conference at the Yongsan Garrison Dragon Hill Lodge April 23.
The issue receiving the ovation was a recommendation to allow single parent enlistees the chance to serve their country without first giving up custody of their children in order to satisfy the stipulations of Army Regulation 601-210.
The group members, including two of the nine conference delegates representing Warrior Country, chose to take this issue to Fil because Army regulations allow single Soldiers already serving to have custody of their children. The same goes for dual military parents. All that's required of these parents is a validated Family care plan establishing guardianship. Group members didn't feel the prohibition was consistent with these active policies or the slogan "Army Strong."
Fil agreed with the group. "It doesn't seem right to me," said Fil, "The job of Soldiers is to be ready to fight and win on short notice. So, there is a readiness issue. But it's a blanket policy that doesn't seem consistent with what we are trying to do as an Army."
Fil told the crowd he would champion the issue and send it forward to get attention at the Department of the Army level.
While this issue has been brought up to higher levels previously, conference attendees are optimistic the new spin on the solution might just get the ball rolling on an issue that could affect thousands of people who want to join the Army but are not prepared for the harsh life choice their enlistment would present.
"The guardianship idea hasn't really been brought up before. It might be the compromise that can make this work," said Robert Zamora, a career counselor acting as the conference subject matter expert for this issue.
Warrior Division delegates helped convince Fil to take action on six other issues with potential Army-wide impact, from extending the allowable leave days Families are given at Child and Youth Service Centers without losing their child's slot, to establishing Tricare medical benefits for Soldiers who have their parents as dependents.
"Delegates prioritized seven out of eight issues which require Headquarters, Department of the Army resolution which is wonderful because that means each one of those will either impact the entire OCONUS population or they are total Army issues," said HQDA AFAP conference issue director Christine Vine.
Warrior Country delegate, Maj. Cherrie Davis, Division deputy human resource management officer, said her group made a conscious effort to take on issues that could start-off helping folks on the peninsula but ultimately impact people across the Army.
"The way you take care of home base is by taking care of your entire population - which is the entire Army, its Family members and DOD civilians who support it," said Davis. "We were looking at things that would build a better quality of life."
Davis' group presented Fil two such quality of life issues: compensation for un-programmed household moves and establishment of locality pay for Department of Defense civilians working OCONUS.
The group determined Soldiers weren't the only population needing attention. "Instead of narrowing the lens on just Soldiers, we opened the scope so the aperture could capture the extended Army Family's needs as well," said Davis.
"AFAP is the greatest democratic process in the Army. Where else can you have a problem submitted by an E-1 private and then see it addressed by a three-star general," said Vine.