By Aiko Rose Brum, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsSeptember 12, 2011
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii, Sept. 12, 2011 -- U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii now joins the handful of Army installations that have held successful town halls in cyberspace.
Garrison's subject matter experts assembled in one place at the same time, Aug. 31, to launch their inaugural hour-long town hall at the garrison's Facebook site.
Approximately 41 discussion topics were covered, with the most frequently asked questions concerning speeding vehicles, unsupervised children in parks and school issues.
Fifteen garrison subject matter experts, or SMEs, including representatives from the Exchange, Schofield Commissary, Island Palm Communities and Schofield Barracks Health Clinic, answered queries as quickly as possible.
"We anticipated that our turnout might be one of two extremes -- either slow in coming or overwhelming," said Lacey Justinger, managing editor of the Hawaii Army Weekly and assistant project officer for the Facebook town hall. "We got so much participation that we started a half hour earlier than scheduled, and we had to tell everyone that the town hall had ended when the time slipped up on us."
The garrison's Public Affairs Office and the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office are busy backtracking what was left unanswered to get replies to those community members as soon as possible.
"With the Labor Day holiday weekend and so many personnel out of the office, plus with deadline-driven Hawaii Army Weekly newspaper production the next day, we're playing catch up now," Justinger explained, emphasizing that answering remaining questions is a top priority.
The garrison chose to hold the online town hall because other Army installations had reported incredible success in reaching Soldiers, family members and the civilian workforce at their Facebook sites.
At the initial Facebook town hall meeting, some participants were pleasantly surprised that Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander, USAG-HI, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Williamson, the garrison's senior enlisted advisor, responded directly to some questions, such as retirement benefits and calling cadence in areas on post.
Drivers on the installation should pull over and render proper salutes or honors during retreat, said Williamson in a Facebook "Discussion Board" post. USAG-HI installation policies are posted online at the garrison website, he said, and added that the garrison is working with the 311th Signal Command to adjust the volume of the emergency notification system, which also broadcasts reveille and retreat.
Mulbury responded to a thread of Facebook questions about vehicles speeding in Island Palm Communities, or IPC, in the north and south areas of Oahu.
"Speed calming involves several traffic engineering procedures, to include installing speed humps," Mulbury replied.
Mulbury explained that traffic engineers are working with IPC to mitigate problems in several areas, including 7th Street in Fort Shafter's Radar Hill.
Installation education and school questions were answered at the Facebook town hall by the garrison's School Liaison Office, or SLO, which is fully engaged with the Hawaii Department of Education and its districts. SLO ensures issues like federal survey cards, which determine federal impact aid, and the Exceptional Family Member Program, get fullest attention.
As well, the Directorate of Emergency Services and IPC, both of which fielded the bulk of questions, answered numerous posts about traffic, security, lawn care and housing maintenance.
Since the town hall, the garrison's Facebook page has received more than 225 new "likes" and interaction has significantly increased on the "Wall" and Discussion Board.
"Facebook also appears to be a preferred communication medium for our Soldiers and family members," said Justinger, citing statistics she used to gauge the town hall's effectiveness.
"I want to personally thank all participants in this unique town hall -- our community members and our garrison staff and supporting agencies. Each of you made this first-time event a success," said Mulbury. "Our garrison values these types of forums to directly interact with our customers, and we intend to do this again in the future."