By Rachel Parks, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsJuly 5, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas - Dozens of issues were discussed regarding the Exceptional Family Member Program at the first Army Family Action Plan EFMP Focus Forum June 21. Out of all the issues, three were deemed the most critical by the forum participants and will become part of the Fort Hood AFAP.
“They’ve already done their workgroup part, so these issues are going to be briefed to our command staff, and from that point, they’ll be put into an action plan to be resolved either locally or forwarded on,” Diane Mansfield-Williams, the AFAP program manager, said at the conclusion of the forum.
Mansfield-Williams said the idea of the forum came about after she and other AFAP employees realized that many issues raised by members of the EFMP could be resolved in the same fashion as issues are resolved in the AFAP program.
“I thought it would be a good idea if we could host a focus forum and allow them to voice issues that they’ve encountered, issues and concerns that they’ve had,” she said. “And then we get these issues all refined … and present them at the AFAP conference. Our goal is just like AFAP: to resolve some issues.”
The top three issues from the forum included: making the TRICARE Extended Care Health Option available for retirees, streamlining the EFMP paperwork process, and adding an additional Fort Hood representative to support the school-aged EFMs in the Killeen Independent School District.
Suzie Svoboda, a participant at the forum, said she was pleased with the outcome.
“I think this was fabulous,” she said. “It went well. It’s a good way to get our issues out there and streamline them so there is some focus and we can highlight what’s the most important.”
Svoboda was also pleased that the guest speaker at the forum was the Fort Hood and III Corps Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr.
Both Campbell and his senior-enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman Jr., addressed the forum participants and told them it’s important to highlight issues and concerns about the EFMP.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Coleman and I, and our spouses, are committed to making sure we do our best for all Soldiers and Families here, but you have some unique circumstances that we certainly have got to be attuned to and make sure that we’re doing our best for you from Fort Hood and the Army perspective,” Campbell said in his address to the forum members.
“You have some unique requirements and situations in your Families,” he added. “We have to get it as right for you as we can.”
The top three issues raised at the forum will now be briefed to Fort Hood leadership. If they can be solved locally, they will be; otherwise, they will be forwarded to a higher level.
Olivia Klopfenstein, another forum representative, said she was happy to take part in the first steps of the process to draw attention to EFMP issues.
“It was something that gives us a chance to express ourselves and let the installation and higher-ups know our views,” she said.
Klopfenstein has taken part in the AFAP conference three times, and she was thrilled the same process was being applied to issues and concerns within the EFMP.
“This is very positive,” she said. “We’re hoping to make a lot of good changes.”
Mansfield-Williams said she was hopeful the EFMP forum will become a recurring annual event. She said future forums would have to be extended to get through all the issues.
“Five-and-a-half hours was not enough time,” she said. “This is definitely something we would like to do again, but we would have to extend the time.”
She also encouraged the participants to take part in the AFAP conference Oct. 25-28, because some of the issues were not just EFMP-specific and could improve the Great Place as a whole.
Stephania Williams, a social service representative and advocate for Fort Hood’s EFMP, said she was impressed by the issues that were raised in the forum.
“All of them were great issues,” she said. “Some of them we’ve already addressed, some of them we need to get more word out about the process because they (the participants) didn’t know about it.”
Williams said she was hopeful all three critical issues will be suitably resolved through the AFAP process.