Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles about issues selected during the Fort Jackson Fiscal Year 2011 Army Family Action Plan conference.
AFAP is an Army-wide program that provides a forum for Soldiers, family members, retirees and DA Civilians to voice concerns and recommend solutions to Army leadership.
During Fort Jackson's conference, workgroups of volunteer delegates narrowed 39 quality-of-life issues to seven top concerns and presented the issues and recommended solutions to the garrison commander and commanding general.
All seven issues will be forwarded to the TRADOC AFAP conference in the spring, when representatives from TRADOC communities will review and prioritize all TRADOC issues and send the top concerns to the Headquarters, Department of the Army AFAP conference, where delegates will decide possible solutions to quality-of-life issues for all Soldiers, family members, retirees and DA civilians.
The list of all 39 issue submissions is now on the AFAP webpage at www.fortjacksonmwr.com/acs_afap.
For more information regarding Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs AFAP call Veronica Patrick at 751-6315.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- If some Fort Jackson community members get their wishes, more resources will be made available to aid prospective military homebuyers in the decision-making processes.

If some Fort Jackson community members get their wishes, more resources will be made available to aid prospective military homebuyers in the decision-making processes.

At Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs recent Army Family Action Plan conference, delegates discussed and proposed recommendations to Col. James Love, garrison commander, and Maj. Gen. James Milano, commanding general, that could potentially help protect military homebuyers from purchasing homes from substandard builders and contractors.

The three recommendations include requiring military housing services offices to provide military personnel with a list of verified, reputable home builders, contractors and inspectors in the communities surrounding installations; supporting legislation that protects military homebuyers from substandard practices by businesses; and developing a campaign plan that would communicate to military homebuyers available resources and measures in place to protect them.

Aca,!A"Some of us have been directly involved, indirectly involved or know other military homebuyers who have bought homes from substandard builders,Aca,!A? said Maj. Jeff Shearin, executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 345th Infantry Regiment and an AFAP workgroup spokesman. Aca,!A"These homebuyers will incur short-term and long-term financial hardships and mental and emotional stress that adversely affect mission readiness.

Aca,!A"Currently, the Housing (Services) Office does not provide adequate information for prospective military homebuyers when relocating,Aca,!A? Shearin said. Aca,!A"The (HSO) focuses primarily on renters and managing on-post housing. And if there are resources currently out there in the Army, whether through the housing office, the (Staff Judge Advocate), or other agencies here on post, theyAca,!a,,cre not well advertised.

Aca,!A"A lot of us donAca,!a,,ct have the luxury of time to do research when we move to a new installation, to get to know the area, or to get to know the builders,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"What weAca,!a,,cre recommending is really about making information available to military homebuyers.Aca,!A?

Milano said that although the military canAca,!a,,ct completely protect homebuyers, he did agree that it could Aca,!A"perhaps offer them more comprehensive and in-depth support.Aca,!A?

Both Milano and Love, however, voiced concerns about having HSOs compile lists of Aca,!A"reputableAca,!A? builders.

Aca,!A"The (HSO) is a resource provider that gives you a host of resources to look at,Aca,!A? Love said. Aca,!A"But we donAca,!a,,ct want to put the (HSO employees) in the position where they do value judgments on different types of home builders.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"The difficulty is that we canAca,!a,,ct come up with an all-inclusive list of the best builders because we may not have information on all of the builders in the area, and they may operate under various names,Aca,!A? said Emma Watson, Housing chief. Aca,!A"And if we did have information about all of the builders, they would all be on the list until a valid case came up against one of them, warranting their removal from the list.Aca,!A?

Watson said that although the HSO does not currently provide a list of builders, the office does provide information from Housing and Urban Development, as well as listings of licensed real estate agents. She also said the HSO representatives provide as much information as possible about housing in areas surrounding Fort Jackson.

Aca,!A"We connect with agencies to provide as much information as we can during in-processing,Aca,!A? Watson said. Aca,!A"In many cases, families contact a (real estate agent) or builder before they even PCS to the installation and check in with the HSO, so they donAca,!a,,ct get their information from us.

The internet provides them with all sorts of information, and what we need to do is make sure we provide that information on our websites and at other various locations.Aca,!A?

Watson said Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs HSO, in conjunction with Army Community ServicesAca,!a,,c consumer affairs office, also periodically offers seminars that provide tips on housing- related issues, such as how to qualify for a home, how to buy and sell a home, and how to buy a foreclosed home. Watson said any time a service member or family member is interested in suggesting a housing-related class, he or she can do so by contacting the HSO or ACS.

In the meantime, Milano said he strongly encourages homebuyers to consult the Better Business Bureau and the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs concerning any businesses involved in housing.

Aca,!A"TheyAca,!a,,cre great resources,Aca,!A? Milano said. Aca,!A"Buying a new home is probably one of the most significant decisions financially people make in their lives. It requires diligent research on the part of the consumer, and I would sure hope (homebuyers) do their appropriate research.Aca,!A?

The military homebuyer issue, along with six other Fort Jackson AFAP issues, will be forwarded to the TRADOC AFAP conference in the spring, when they will be reviewed and prioritized among all TRADOC issues.