By Amber Avalona-Butler/ParaglideAugust 27, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sometimes a single suggestion can manifest a better quality of life for the military. This is the goal of the Army Family Action Plan, established in the early 1980s, which increases awareness of Armywide issues and funding for installation projects and programs.
"Not only do we ask for issues, but we ask how you would fix it," said Catherine Mansfield, Installation Volunteer Services Program manager, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, who added that contact information is important to facilitate further communication between respondents and AFAP staff. By providing a name and email address, respondents also stay informed on the progress of their issues.
The quarterly installation Town Hall meetings, known as mini-AFAPs, take place in February, May, August and November. Installation leaders and field representatives review issues and discuss installation resources for addressing these concerns.
Not all installations implement the quarterly meeting process but it's a valuable addition to the Fort Bragg AFAP, according to Mansfield. "We started doing that a couple years ago because we didn't want to wait (a year) to look at something that could be fixed quickly," said Mansfield. Issues like blind spots at intersections, the timing of traffic signals and potholes are localized and usually easier to fix.
For tougher issues like benefits, TRICARE and parking decks - those that require a regulatory change or large funding - the action teams address these during the yearly October conference.
"We try to get different representation from all over post. We have active duty, retired, spouses, single Soldiers, married Soldiers, dual military, wounded warriors, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers ... a good mix of the population," said Mansfield. She added that surviving spouses, Pope Air Force Base, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the commissaries and other civilian-staffed programs are also represented.
Participants divide into work groups of between 12 to 15 people and then discuss the submitted issues facing the installation.
"We have a benefits and entitlements group, a medical-dental group, sometimes we have a child and youth group ... it just depends on those issues that have come in," said Mansfield.
Workgroups choose the top three issues in each category and brief the senior mission and garrison commanders on the third day of the October conference. This meeting is open to Soldiers and Families interested in hearing about quality of life issues that were submitted from around the installation.
"Those (issues) fall into the process and they're tracked until they're either labeled complete, unattainable or remain in the system as active," said Mansfield.
Two other conferences - the mid-level Forces Command conference in March and the Army-level conference, typically in November - round out the AFAP process. Some issues gain Army-wide attention and thus ensuring a stronger Army Family Covenant that improves the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families.
Check out the AFAP website at http://www.fortbraggmwr.com/afap.php. Read about success stories, review the status of an AFAP issue and submit your own ideas, or offer to volunteer for a conference staff position via the site.