FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker Soldiers and Families took ownership in improving their quality of life during the annual Army Family Action Plan conference at The Landing Oct. 5 and 6.

Brig. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, challenged AFAP participants to "think big," because he has "seen positive changes coming from these forums."

Four workgroups and about 75 volunteers talked through issues affecting the military community and brainstormed potential resolutions last week. The groups included Retail/Leisure/Family and Community, Entitlements/Force support, Medical/Dental and Military Retiree/Survivor. Teenagers' concerns were heard during a youth AFAP conference here in May.

By the conference's end, nine topics were voted to be of highest importance. Issues determined to be a priority included:

Increasing computer software privacy when checking children in to the Child Development Center.
Offering more part-time versus full-time Department of the Army positions.

Inadequate capacity at youth programs.

Inequality in the level of services among Department of Defense installations.

Increasing the time period for surviving Family members to invest death gratuity funds, per the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act.

Changing assignment considerations for wounded warriors.

Improving the medical exam and review processes for retiring Soldiers and educating servicemembers on their benefits.

Separating age categories for teenage and youth services programs.

Organizing high school aged sports programs for youth ages 14-18.

"AFAP is a good idea because it's grassroots," said Justin Mitchell, deputy garrison commander.
He said AFAP has a history of improving Soldiers' and military Families' quality of life and making Fort Rucker an "installation of excellence."

Those who participated in the conference said the experience was worthwhile and will influence positive changes.

"I have heard of wonderful successes with AFAP and the issues brought up Armywide. I wanted to be a part of that," said Jeanet Pascua, a military spouse and Medical/Dental workgroup delegate. "In one way or another, everything put into policy will affect the whole Army Family."

"AFAP is successful and meaningful because it engages the people it affects," said Retiree/Survivor workgroup delegate WO1 Bethany Bump, a B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment flight school student.

Issues that cannot be resolved at the Oct. 28 garrison steering committee will be forwarded to higher AFAP conferences, said Barbara Throckmorton, AFAP program manager. Those venues include the Headquarters Department of the Army meeting in January in Washington, D.C., Forces Command meetings in March and Training and Doctrine Command conferences in May.

Issues not discussed in detail last week that require local resolution will be discussed by post leaders in meetings throughout the year, Mitchell said.