COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The 2011 U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command's Army Family Action Plan conference was held April 18-22 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The conference brought Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and spouses of both to the Antlers Hilton Hotel for a week to basically create a think tank to tackle some of the issues military personnel are facing from Kwajalein Atoll to Huntsville Ala., and those post and bases in-between.

I was one of the Soldiers selected to represent the Army National Guard and the 100th Missile Defense Brigade. I had never been to one of these conferences before and I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew I was going to miss work to spend my week at a downtown hotel. Not a bad gig.

But it didn't take me long to realize that this wasn't just going to be time off of work. Organizers of the conference were KC Bertling and Julia Maldonado. They introduced themselves at the delegates' meeting on Monday and they explained what we would be doing during the week. It was there we found out what group we would be assigned to and met the people we would be working with. I was assigned to the employment group think tank. It consisted of 10 or so other Soldiers and civilian contractors from around the country, and even the world. No one had the same job or assignment. I was amazed at the diversity of the group.

Breaking the ice took some time but by the time dinner was served at the official conference opening kickoff country themed dinner, almost everyone was integrating themselves into conversations. To help start conversation, each table received a word game to discuss with the table. After dinner was served the answers were given. There was a total of 15 points available and my table ended up only getting eight of those points. Hey, we tried.

Lucky for the group, we were saving our best brain power for the real issues.
Tuesday, we started getting into the real meat of the issues. The list we were dealt had 15 issues that had been submitted to SMDC leadership. Some were local issues that were too broad and others were too specific, and didn't help the entire Army. Facilitators were there to control the flow of discussion and kept us focused on what issues were something that could be fixed and help the greater amount of people.

Our facilitators were very energetic and kept the discussion environment upbeat. Our group couldn't wait to get together. Instead of arguing and fighting through issues, we used laughter to keep focused and engaged. We also kept busy with our Christmas colored pipe cleaners that were put on our table each morning. Cars, animals and mostly candy canes started to fill the room as the week progressed. There was even a four-foot pyramid that developed by the last day in one of the other groups' room.

Slowly the issues dwindled from 15 to five, to eventually two. Our group decided for one of our two issues to take three similar issues and make them into one solid issue. Despite a little push back from the AFAP leaders, the issues were finally refined to be presented on Friday.

Friday was the last day of the conference and the day the three groups would have to present their ideas to Lt. Gen. Richard P. Formica, commanding general, USASMDC/ARSTRAT. Our group picked our spokesperson and prepared our cheer, which we were supposed to perform. I guess it was tradition, despite sounding silly. But I think our group did the best it could and we even made the general laugh a little. After the cheering and presenting of issues were complete, we were thanked for our participation and released.

As I walked out of the hotel that afternoon, a sense of accomplishment flushed over me because I knew that we had done well and the changes made though all this will make many people happier and improve military quality of life.

And that made my week off of work worth the time.