By Vickey MouzAfA, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsFebruary 15, 2011
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Nicole Roames threw a soft, gray, woolen shawl over her blouse to ward off the chill in the standard-issue classroom in the Education Center, here, Feb. 8.
She darted back and forth, asking 20 or so delegates to get up, move around and find others who like the same favorite color.
"I like blue. All people who like blue, come over here with me," one delegate said.
Favorite colors now chosen, Roames mixed up the workgroup again. This time, she wanted delegates to find others who own the same type of pet.
"All dog people over here!" shouted one woman.
Roames had a method for this madness. She explained that the icebreakers get delegates comfortable with one another on the first day of U.S Army Garrison-Hawaii's 27th annual Army Family Action Plan Conference, or AFAP, here. Similar icebreakers were going on among the other AFAP workgroups for base operations, family services, force support and survivor outreach services.
Sixty-eight delegates, some volunteers and others selected, were divided amongst the groups. They represent the Army family: single and married active duty Soldiers, the Army National Guard, family members, retirees and Army civilians from throughout U.S. Army Hawaii.
These delegates are the face of USARHAW; they come from 25th Infantry Division, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, 311th Signal Command, 196th Infantry Brigade, 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, U.S. Army-Pacific, Tripler Army Medical Center, the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, and other units and activities.
During the next few days, delegates sorted through and prioritized 88 local issues submitted by community members.
Roames is one of five facilitators at this year's conference, which ended Friday. As a facilitator, she oversees delegates in the community services workgroup. She said some delegates hadn't heard about AFAP prior to attending this year's conference.
"By the end of the week, they will all love this program," she said. "They are affecting change; they are helping themselves to make life better not only for themselves, but for the community.
"AFAP has changed legislation and created programs, like BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers)," she added. "SGLI (Service members Group Life Insurance) was increased, because of AFAP."
Later that day, AFAP conference attendees walked over to the Tropics Recreation Center for the AFAP opening ceremony.
"Your presence here is a reflection of this community," said Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, USAG-HI, before introducing the guest speaker, Brig. Gen. John Seward, deputy commander, USARPAC.
Mulbury said that the AFAP process makes USAG-HI a better place for those who work and train here.
"That's the whole purpose of the (AFAP)," he said. "Many of those issues we can address at the garrison level, and (the results) will translate into true quality of life and increase the readiness for our Soldiers and family members. ... So, (AFAP) is an important process."
"I cannot understate the importance of the AFAP process," Seward said, in his opening remarks. "(AFAP) gives a voice to each Army community, enabling its members to contribute their input, both here in Hawaii, as well as at installations throughout the globe."
Past issues that resulted in local improvements include implementation of a summer bus shuttle service in Oahu North, construction of a handicap access ramp at the Schofield Barracks Post Office and establishment of a Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation pet kennel on Oahu.
The remaining days of the conference are devoted to sorting through and prioritizing community issues, after which, the top issues will be presented to senior leadership.
AFAP improves local communities
The Army Family Action Plan Conference that was held, here, Tuesday-Friday, is just one of the many AFAP conferences held annually throughout the Army.
AFAP gives all members of the Army family a chance to change and improve community issues.
Each year, Army family members throughout the Army identify, develop and prioritize community issues that are presented at installation-level AFAP conferences.
Issues that can be resolved at installation level are assigned to the office that has responsibility for the issue. Potential solutions are developed and are published in the installation AFAP.
Installation AFAP steering committees review the issues and monitor them until they are resolved.
Issues beyond the scope of an installation commander, which require a higher level of authority, go forward to the issue's respective major command. U.S. Army-Pacific is the MACOM for U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, where the process is repeated.
Issues that can't be resolved at the MACOM level are then forwarded to the Department of the Army. There, issues will either be identified as active, completed or unattainable. Results are published and distributed Armywide.
(Editor's Note: This article is the first in a two-part series about the Army Family Action Plan Conference held at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.)