FORT LEE, Va. (March 24, 2011) -- Fort Lee is on the front lines of an Installation Management Command Army Community Service transformation initiative that is meant to improve the delivery of support services to military families.

Maj. Gen. James L. Hodge, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, and Stephanie Parker, ACS officer, said they were "happy to volunteer" the center here for the IMCOM project. It is now one of 22 pilot locations Army wide.

"It's an important project that we are now working on," said Hodge during an ACS Transformation focus group meeting in February. "In the end, I hope we'll make it a better program that meets the needs of our current and future Army."

Parker said she is confident in Fort Lee's ability to offer a unique perspective to the pilot program, and that's why she encouraged the installation to get involved as soon as possible.

"All installations with a strong Training and Doctrine Command presence are unique," said Parker. "They don't have a large base of permanent party personnel, and I wanted to see how (new ACS transformation concepts) work with a rotating advanced individual training population.

"Also, as I told my staff, I wanted to be part of the change process instead of being on the receiving end - I think it's more beneficial to us to be part of the pilot to give our feedback and let our voice be heard," she continued.

IMCOM forwarded multiple objectives to the pilot sites that included changing many of the ACS specialists to generalist positions, decentralizing ACS to have its personnel in different locations and increase outreach efforts to inform the community about ACS offerings.

The pilot runs through March 31, and IMCOM will analyze the feedback from each of the installations before it announces the results at the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation symposium in April.

Fort Lee's major push with testing pilot objectives has been outreach and transforming the ACS staff positions.

"We've identified some positions within the ACS workforce that could go out to other locations on post and provide information and referral and also deliver services to personnel as opposed to having people come here to our building," said Parker. "The positions that were identified as generalists will have a broad knowledge of ACS programs and will be able to provide services for them."

A few aspects of ACS will not have generalists - i.e., the Family Advocacy Program, Exceptional Family Member Program and Survivor Outreach Services - due to the specialized training associated with those positions.

Although many assignments will be changed, Parker said it won't be difficult for her staff.

"There's not really a major change for us - most of my staff have been part of ACS for many years and come with varying degrees of backgrounds and knowledge," she said. "I wouldn't say the training or the skill set is a challenge. I think identifying the demand and matching it will be the area of discovery. The challenge for our staff is making sure we're covered in and outside the office."

During a recent message, IMCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, who is spearheading the transformation, wrote that the generalist positions will help Soldiers and family members navigate ACS offerings.

"With this information, they will be able to help clients not only access the programs that address their immediate concerns, but also take advantage of programs that help them meet longer-term goals," Lynch wrote. "If clients need specialized assistance, these staff will make sure they see the right person and will follow up until they have gotten the help they need."

In efforts to spread knowledge about ACS, Parker said her staff established an informational table at Kenner Army Health Clinic this week, and there are many more outreach activities to come.

"The intent of the transformation is trying to meet the customer, instead of the customer coming to the ACS center," said Parker. "It is a positive avenue for us to deliver our services and make sure we can follow up with the Soldiers and families. General Lynch's intent is to ensure no one falls through the gap and make sure the services are getting to the customers so they know where to go."

While decentralization or increasing services to other places on post is an important objective for the transformation pilot, Fort Lee ACS already has one place on post outside of the regular building they call home - the Soldier Support Center.

"The ACS office at the SSC fits the mold of the ACS transformation by having a satellite office outside of the main center," said Parker. "We get a lot of walk-ins and ICE comments about the SSC office. The Soldiers are finding that it's beneficial to have the information there. It meets several needs for the Soldiers."

Making sure Soldiers and their families get the services they need is the major drive for the transformation, wrote Lynch.

"The intent behind the proposals - and behind any change ultimately made permanent - is to ensure that Soldiers and family members can find the right service at the right time, the first time they seek assistance," Lynch wrote. "There is no wrong door for accessing ACS services. No matter whom Soldiers and family members talk with or where they seek services, they have come to the right place. ACS is there for them now, when they are dealing with today's concern, and tomorrow, as they pursue long-term personal goals."

While the changes should be announced in April, the ACS transformation is scheduled to go live Oct. 1. Also at that time, all ACS centers across the Army will officially become their own directorate under each garrison, changing from their current position in the FMWR family.