FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- After a year of gathering, sorting and accepting issues, Fort Drum Army Family Action Plan representatives are busy preparing for the annual conference next week.

The Fort Drum AFAP Conference, which will take place Jan. 28 and 29, addresses quality of life issues submitted by the "Army Family" -- Soldiers, Families, civilians and retirees, according to Allison Hill, AFAP program manager.

Throughout the year, AFAP representatives collect issues and compile them for the annual conference.

"Sometimes people submit those issues with recommendations for change and sometimes they aren't sure where it should go, but it's an issue that we need to take a look at," Hill said, adding that AFAP representatives ensure submissions haven't been through the Fort Drum AFAP program in the last three years.

This year, more than 60 issues will be addressed at during the two-day event, she added.
Delegates, representing a cross-section of the Fort Drum community, will be assigned to one of four working groups: benefits and entitlements, medical and dental, force support and family support.

"We want the work groups to be representative of the Army Family here at Fort Drum," Hill explained. "However, when they go in to the (delegation) room, everybody is equal.

"Even the Soldiers who are working the AFAP conference are not to wear their rank into the room; they come in civilian clothes … (or) we ask them to remove their jacket," she added. "Everybody's opinion is equally important."

Conference facilitators also will assist in ensuring the event goes smoothly. In each room, there will be a discussion facilitator, recorder, researcher and manager. Also, subject-matter experts from throughout the installation will be on site to offer factual information and answer any questions or concerns, Hill said.

Delegates will vote to determine the top issues in each category and then will work to come up with suggestions or resolutions.

The final issues will be presented to commanders and community leaders during the outbriefing on Jan. 29. In addition to the four working groups, a delegate from AFAP's Teen Conference, which was held in November, also will present issues.

"From there, the delegates listen to everything that has been presented, and they vote on their top three issues," Hill said.

"We tally all of the votes, and those are the issues that will be resolved in some way. We will get answers from those responsible (for each issue) as to how these can be addressed."

Even though some issues may not be voted on as the most important to everyone, commanders get to see all of the issues raised during the conference, Hill added.

"The issues that actually get entered into the Army Family Action Plan are the most important issues to everybody, but that doesn't mean people aren't going to notice all the other issues," she said. "If there are issues that people are bringing up and they are things we can change and are logical, if there's a low-cost, creative solution to it, we can still make that change. This program is created to be able to make those changes."

See what issues were raised at this year's conference in the Jan. 31 issue of The Mountaineer.