Have you ever wanted to change the world? Well, now is your chance to do just that. Army Community Service is accepting community issues and concerns for the upcoming Army Family Action Plan conference, here, Oct. 12 and 13.
AFAP is a grassroots program that was created more than 30 years ago by Army spouses with the intent of bringing quality-of-life issues to leadership for action. If you think that your ideas won’t be heard; think again. Every issue brought forth is addressed, said AFAP Program Manager Mary Cheney, who is in charge of the conference here. No submissions are discarded, she said. “When issues are submitted, there has to be some kind of resolution.”
Resolution can be achieved in a variety of ways. It may mean forwarding an issue to the appropriate place, if it does not fall under the AFAP process, or it can be addressed on the spot. “Those issues that we can resolve immediately, we send through the ICE system if it can be a quick fix,” Cheney said.
At the installation level, delegates are chosen to participate in the conference and represent a cross-section of demographics from the installation to include Soldiers, spouses and civilians, Cheney said.
At the conference the delegates are assigned to diverse work groups and given issues to prioritize. Topics vary but include quality of life issues and entitlements. If an issue is not prioritized, then that must be substantiated.
Finally, issues are fine-tuned so that as it moves forward in the process, it is clear what is being requested, she said.
Two local issues that were resolved through the AFAP process at the local level are the addition of crosswalks between the soccer fields and a new dog park, both on Hainerberg.
Requests that cannot be addressed locally are funneled to U.S. Army Europe and from there they are forwarded to the General Officers Steering Committee, chaired by the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, for resolution. Typically a handful of issues from each garrison are forwarded to the GOSC, which reviews the issues twice a year.
This year’s AFAP coordinator, Debra Coleman, is no stranger to the process. She saw the program from a different perspective when she worked at the GOSC previously as a civilian. The University of Oklahoma graduate studies intern is bringing her expertise to the garrison level and encouraging people to participate.
“Anybody can put in a suggestion—that’s the beauty of it,” she said.
AFAP success stories that have begun with community members submitting their ideas include distribution of GI Bill benefits to dependents, military Thrift Savings Plan, TRICARE for Life for eligible retirees and, most recently, non-competitive appointments for military spouses.
“The breadth of AFAP’s impact has the ability to reach all the way to the legislative branch of the government and has the capacity to impact more than just Army personnel and Families,” Cheney said, in reference to the recent example of the Fiscal Year 17 NDAA amendment, which states that there will be no time limitation on eligibility for relocating spouses of the Armed Forces. This means that military Spouses are eligible for noncompetitive appointments for the duration of their time at their permanent duty station, she said.
“This is only one illustration of what a huge difference each of us can make. It is so exciting to think that on some installation there was someone who thought spouses seeking employment could be better served with a change in the system. They submitted the original issue and it moved through the channels all the way to the Office of Personnel Management. Their idea has influenced the lives of Families across all branches of the military. To me, it’s incredible to think that absolutely anyone; my neighbor, the retiree I see at the clinic, the single Soldier living in the barracks, the civilian at the Ed Center—you—could affect such a change to the Quality of Life for all of us who are part of the Total Army Family.”
Coleman said the groups at the conference give each participant the opportunity to change people’s minds and explain why their idea would improve quality of life. “It gives you a chance to defend what you’re fighting for.”
ACS is looking for interested volunteers to take part in the focus groups and conference. Deadline for those interested in serving as delegates is Oct. 5. Deadline for idea submissions is Oct. 1.
How to Submit
Look for submission boxes at ACS and around the community at the following locations or submit online:
-Wiesbaden Entertainment Center
How to participate
AFAP focus groups will begin meeting this month. Call (0611) 143-548-9201 to sign up to participate.