By Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone October 6, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Diversity.
That's what Carie Green wants to see around the table when members of the Redstone Arsenal community come together to discuss issues during this year's Army Family Action Plan conference.
But that diversity is not limited to race, gender or religious affiliation.
It also has to do with employment status -- civilian, contractor, retiree and military -- and tenant representation.
"Every time we put the word Army or Army family in front of anything, people in their minds begin to picture a Soldier and their family," Green said.
"At Redstone, we are so much more diverse. We're not just Army Soldiers and their families. We have to think broader to include civilian families, contractor families and retiree families. The Army family is anyone who works for the military or who is supported by the Army. If you are a tenant, then you are part of the Army family. And because Redstone is so diverse with so many tenants, we want to make sure the conference represents the diversity of the employers here."
The Army Family Action Plan is the Army's grassroots process to identify and elevate to senior leaders the most significant quality of life issues impacting Soldiers, retirees, Army civilians and military-related families. Information provided through the AFAP process gives commanders and leaders insight into quality of life issues that need to be addressed and improved.
As the quality of life program manager for Army Community Service, Green is coordinating Redstone's annual Army Family Action Plan conference set for Oct. 26-27 at the Officers and Civilians Club. The key to a good conference is having a group of 50 delegates whose diversity represents all tenants and walks of life of the Arsenal community, and who are willing to study and discuss quality of life issues.
"We want the diversity of the community at this conference," Green said. "We want representatives from active duty, retirees, civilians, spouses, single servicemembers and other aspects of life because things affect or impact each of these groups differently based on the category they fall in."
Anyone can volunteer to be a delegate for the Army Family Action Plan conference. But if they are employed by a Redstone tenant, they must have approval of their senior leadership to be involved in the conference, Green said. While many of the conference delegates will volunteer on their own, others will also be chosen to volunteer by Arsenal tenants.
AFAP conferences are held every year at all Army installations. Issues identified at these conferences are first addressed locally by installation leadership. Issues that need attention throughout the Army are recommended for review, discussion and action at the annual Armywide AFAP conference.
"The Army is the only branch that has a process like AFAP," Green said. "Since it started in 1983, 683 issues have been addressed by the AFAP process. This is Redstone's 23rd year to participate in AFAP.
"AFAP at Redstone is all about improving the quality of life here. Ninety percent of the issue that come up at our conference can be resolved locally. We want to make sure we are providing the types of services that this community needs. Even though most people work here and then live off post, they are still spending the majority of their time here, and we want to make sure we provide them with what they need while on post."
Besides volunteers, Green also needs Redstone community members to submit quality of life issues for consideration. These issues can be submitted through the survey in today's Redstone Rocket on page 18, and also online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AFAPConferenceSurvey.
"If you use the programs and services and facilities on Redstone Arsenal, then you can be a part of AFAP by telling us about them. If you use them, then why not be a part of shaping them and making them work for you and your family? If you don't ever voice a concern, how will we know what the problem is? Speak up and have a voice," Green said.
"What is it you don't like? What would you like? What would make things better? If you don't voice your most pressing concerns, then do you have a right to complain?"
Redstone community members can use the survey to make suggestions on how to resolve quality of life issues. They can also submit comments on aspects of Redstone's quality of life that they enjoy and appreciate.
"The Garrison doesn't have the money to provide every single service," Green said. "So, we want to know about the programs and services that you really use and benefit from. Programs and services will go away if they aren't used or if people don't realize they exist.
"On Redstone, the Garrison spends a lot of money to improved quality of life. The only way the Garrison can determine if they are spending money in the right areas is if people who utilize those programs or services or facilities tell us what they like. They want to put money into things people will use."
During the first day of the AFAP conference, delegates will review recent and ongoing changes at Redstone. They will then be split into three groups -- benefits and entitlements, consumer services and medical/dental -- to discuss issues touching on such topics as education, housing, retirement benefits, military and civilian pay, safety, security and fitness. The groups will spend the rest of the conference reviewing issues and determining the top two issues that they will present to Redstone senior leadership at the conclusion of the conference. During their group discussions, delegates will hear from subject matter experts on the issues being discussed.
"The groups will choose their two issues. They will define them, explain their scope and then make recommendations that must be reasonable and attainable," Green said. "Senior leaders and the AFAP Steering Committee will look at those issues and recommendations and decide what the installation can do towards resolution. If it is a 'big Army' issue or something that can't be resolved at the installation level, then the senior leadership will send it through the national AFAP process."
Although AFAP is an Army process, several of the issues addressed by AFAP over the years have also been given attention at the Department of Defense level, making the Army's AFAP a pacesetter for other military branches.
"When an issue goes through the Army, it is likely that same issue affects military families in other branches of service," Green said. "The Department of Defense will see how the Army has handled and resolved that issue, and if it makes sense to them they will instigate what we have done across the board to all branches. So, what we do in the Army with AFAP can have a positive effect on members of other military branches as well."
Locally, Green said she wants to encourage this year's delegates to take back to the workplace and to the community as a whole the things they learned by being part of the AFAP process.
"They need to take the message back with them," she said. "We want to educate the work force about AFAP.
"They should take away with them the process and the issues, and share those with others so that we all know how quality of life issues are brought to the attention of senior leadership, and are resolved here at Redstone and throughout the Army. The community needs to know that senior leadership is addressing the issues that are important to them. The goal is to make things better. It is always to improve."