Workgroups gives vital suggestions to leaders as AFAP conference closes

| March 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Bill Mossman
News Editor

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Army Family Action Plan delegates developed suggestions to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and family members at this year’s conference brief-out, while also being reminded that strengthening Hawaii’s education system remains the top priority among Army senior leaders.

Delegates representing five working groups — base operations, force support, single Soldiers, community and family support, and teenagers — convened, here, at the Nehelani Banquet and Conference Center, March 18, for the 2010 AFAP Conference closing ceremony.

Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, addresses issues raised by delegates at the Army Family Action Plan Conference closing ceremony, March 18, at the Nehelani Banquet & Conference Center.Following three days of methodically ferreting out the top issues among the 120-plus solicited ideas from Army community members, group representatives made their recommendations to senior leaders and subject matter experts.

Their suggestions often drew immediate responses from their intended audience, as when the community and family support delegation championed the idea of establishing Department of Defense Education Activity schools on Hawaii military installations.

“(Education) is my Number 1 issue,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Terry, commanding general, U.S. Army-Hawaii. “If there’s anything keeping me up at night in terms of issues affecting our communities, it’s education.”

Terry advised delegates, as well as the greater Army community, to be on the lookout for a DoDEA survey, which is expected to be disseminated by mail, as well as online, in the coming weeks. While not privy to the exact questions, Terry said he expects the survey — which will be extended to Army families, who reside both on- and off-post — to touch on current concerns regarding the state’s public school system, particularly due to the ongoing issue of furlough days.

“What we ask is that you don’t blow (the survey) off,” said Terry, who also serves as commanding general for the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army-Pacific. “Get the word out to friends and families.”

In its 26th year, the AFAP process allows community members to identify most valuable services and offer recommendations that would improve Army life for Soldiers and their family members.

Among those services the five workgroups identified as valuable were Army Community Service, deployment support programs such as Blue Star Card, physical fitness centers, and the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

Issues raised at the conference will be tracked by a local steering committee until they are resolved, said Tracey Clark, ACS volunteer corps coordinator.

Teens group representative Sinead Gray cited the need for the local garrison to offer more new movie releases on-post, additional midnight premiers and an increased number of show times. With a limited movie selection available, teenagers may be creating safety issues when venturing off-post to catch the latest releases, she said.

Gray also hoped for more teen-friendly jobs on-post, and lobbied for the development of a list of prospective employers.

Her request included a Web site, in which job resources, geared specifically toward teenagers, would be posted.

The base operations workgroup tackled the curfew issue, saying the current policy does not fall in line with Hawaii state law, which requires minors to be home by 10 p.m. Group representative Ryan Zieglar requested that the current policy of a 9 p.m. curfew for teens ages 13 and younger, and 11 p.m. for those between 14 and 17, be moved up by an hour.

He and fellow base operations’ delegates argued that minors having one less hour “to be outside unsupervised may create an environment that would lead to less crime.”

Force support representative Jennifer Wagner asked the garrison to offer a shuttle service that transports residents to various medical facilities. She said that many residents come from “one-car families” or don’t have a driver’s license, and that creating such a service might increase the no-show percentage of missed appointments.

Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, said the garrison would look into the possibility of providing such a service — again.

“We tried to implement a service back in 2008,” he said, “but it would average only two or three passengers per shuttle.”

The single Soldier workgroup said there might be a financial hardship for Soldiers when the new blue Army Service Uniform is to be worn, beginning in 2014.

Representative Melinda Porter said the Army should offer a one-time stipend to include the purchase of the ASU, as well as reimburse those Soldiers who have already purchased the new uniform.

Finally, the community and family support workgroup called for dependents to be included on initial first-duty station orders from Advanced Individual Training/One Station Unit Training. Failure to provide this information, group members said, results in mental, physical and financial hardships for Soldiers and their dependents.

Representative Mike Wetzel said service members should be educated to understand their requirements when traveling from AIT/OSUT to their duty station.

He also said that all regulations should be updated to reflect all Defense Eligibility Enrollment Rapid System-authorized dependents on Permanent Change of Station orders to first-duty stations.

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