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AFAP gives people voice in quality of life improvement

Russell B. Hall, Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, speaks to delegates and volunteers during the opening of the AFAP Conference Nov. 5 at Wings Chapel. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Russell B. Hall, Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, speaks to delegates and volunteers during the opening of the AFAP Conference Nov. 5 at Wings Chapel. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: November 14, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 14, 2014) -- Fort Rucker leadership strives to make sure Soldiers, family members and civilians are well taken care of, and the Army makes sure it provides a forum where issues can be heard and resolved at the appropriate level.

The installation held the Army Family Action Plan Conference Nov. 5 and 6 at Wings Chapel to give a voice to the people of Fort Rucker, and get their issues and concerns heard and into the hands of Army leadership, said Rick Kohl, acting Army Family Action Plan coordinator.

“This is a small, but dedicated group, and in 31 years (AFAP) has made a difference in the structure of the Army,” he said during the conference. “The AFAP process offers the unique ability for somebody who is experiencing something … and they can voice concern and offer a resolution in a way that is unlike anything else the Army has to offer.”

Russell B. Hall, Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, was on hand at the opening of the conference to offer words of encouragement and remind people why AFAP is necessary.

“It really is about the grass roots of the total Army family structure, meaning Soldiers, civilians, families, retirees, our teams, everyone,” he said. “You are the experts at family quality of life, and you bring that to bear here and that’s why it’s important that we get these ideas.

“You are my experts, so don’t hold things back,” he continued. “A lot of people will think that this is my rock to bear, but don’t work it that way. Embody it as a piece of work that needs to be expanded on that may help the entire Army and the entire Army family. Your efforts today will get to the Department of the Army – that’s the beauty of this thing.”

In past years, more than 685 different recommendations have gone forward to improve quality of life for Soldiers, family members, civilians and retirees. In 2012, the No. 1 issue at the Army-level AFAP conference was started at Fort Rucker.

That issue was the Survivor Investment of Military Death Gratuity and Service Member’s Group Life Insurance and the time allotment of 12 months that was given to place the full amount awarded into a Roth individual retirement fund or Coverdell Education Savings Account, said Hall. That issue was worked to try and get the extension to 36 months to allow more time for family members to grieve before having to worry about those monetary issues.

This year’s top issues that came out of the conference in ascending order include, the Fort Rucker Stray Facility, medical record review, priority placement program eligibility for newly married spouses, modernization of the child development center and Veteran’s Affairs transition assistance.

These issues were worked down from 15 total issues that were submitted from people and organizations across the installation, said Kohl, and were worked in workgroups made up of delegates, and subject-matter experts to determine which of the issues were the most pressing and what resolutions they could offer to remedy the issues.

“Following the conference we will have the garrison commander’s steering committee, and assign people to work the issues and make recommendations,” he said. “The issues that the garrison commander can address locally will be dealt with at the local level. He’ll assign action officers to work the issue and put together a plan to address and resolve the issue if possible. The ones that can’t be dealt with on a local level because of the scope of the issue will be forwarded up to (Installation Management Command).”

Although Fort Rucker offers many ways for people to submit feedback, such as the Interactive Customer Evaluation, Kohl said that AFAP offers a depth that ICE can’t.

“The difference between AFAP and something like ICE is that these issues are worked through and plans are made to address these issues through AFAP,” he said. “This isn’t just someone reading an ICE comment and then resolving it. These resolutions must go through a process, and that allows for there to be a depth of insight gathered because there are subject-matter experts that work the issues. AFAP issues tend to be bigger, broader issues in scope and offer a way to make some real changes for the better.”

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