Delegates present AFAP issues

| November 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
AFAP conference

Delegates assemble at Schofield Barracks’ Nehelani for the 2014 AFAP conference.

Story and photo by Karen A. Iwamoto
Staff Writer

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — A group of 12 Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) delegates were gathered in one of the Nehelani conference rooms to discuss improvements to child care at U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

Plastered on the walls were sheets of paper bearing the evidence of their brainstorming: Better pay for child care workers, address the staffing shortage at the garrison’s Child Development Centers, and partner with surrounding colleges to create a work-study program that would give students credit for working at the CDC.

“The ability for military parents to have reliable, quality child care directly impacts mission readiness,” said Kate Disney, one of the delegates. “If you don’t have somewhere to put your child, you cannot go to work. There are some off-post child care options, but many of them don’t open early enough.”

Disney’s group was one of three convened to identify garrison issues and recommend improvements at the three-day AFAP conference, which took place from Monday-Wednesday (Nov. 17-19). More than 60 delegates discussed issues related to improving Army quality of life.

During the first two days, the delegates met in groups, with each group focusing on a specific category: Soldier, family or service issues. A third group, made up solely of Army teens, met on Saturday to discuss issues specific to them.

AFAPCrestLogo

The issues were submitted by the Army community in Hawaii through the Army Community Service website or by contacting the ACS office directly throughout the year. The AFAP delegates included a diverse group of Army Soldiers, spouses, survivors and Department of the Army civilians selected to represent the larger Army community.

While improved child care was a priority issue for Disney’s group, it was only one of about 70-plus issues facing Army families in Hawaii.

“It’s rewarding watching how the delegates take an interest in the issues and realize that they have a voice, not just at the local level, but for the Army at large,” said Brandi Stauber, chief of ACS. “But this year the challenge will be with the fiscal constraints imposed upon us.”

In a conference room neighboring that of Disney’s group, another group of delegates was looking into ways to address traffic safety, specifically at crosswalks. The delegates in this group discussed, among other things, whether the solution is coming up with new policies or simply ensuring that current policies are properly enforced.

And in a third conference room, the conversation centered on properly educating Soldiers and Army families, who are relocating, about their temporary lodging allowance. The problem seemed to be that information on this subject was not distributed equally throughout the Army, and this was causing confusion and, in many cases, financial strife for families changing station.

“It’s important so that everybody that goes through it doesn’t have to go through it again. Everybody knows what to expect,” said Karen Walker, an Army spouse and one of the delegates. “After one person fights the battle to figure out how it’s done, the next person doesn’t have to go ahead and fight the same battle.”

All of these issues and others were presented to the USAG-HI command at the AFAP conference out-briefing Wednesday. From there, the issues will be reviewed by command until they are resolved, either at the garrison level or, if necessary, by escalating the issue to the Department of Army.

“We can’t pay you for your time here, we can’t reward you, but we can thank you,” Brig. Gen. Sean Jenkins, deputy commander-Support, 25th Infantry Division, told delegates at the out-briefing. “And what you did here will make a difference. Life is not easy in the 25th Infantry. We are one of the busiest installations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make things better.

Brig. Gen. Sean Jenkins, left, speaks with Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Michael Amarosa at the AFAP conference Nov. 19 at the Nehelani. Jenkins was a keynote speaker at the conference.

Brig. Gen. Sean Jenkins, left, speaks with Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Michael Amarosa at the AFAP conference Nov. 19 at the Nehelani. Jenkins was a keynote speaker at the conference.

“The Army slogan is, ‘The strength of our Soldiers is our family,’ so I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done here,” Jenkins added. “We’re going to make this a better place to live, a better place to train. We’re going to take care of our Army family.”

AFAP began in 1983 as a grassroots effort by a group of Army spouses who wanted to improve the quality of life of their families. It has since grown to become the driving force behind hundreds of legislative, regulatory and policy changes within individual Army installations and on the national level.

“It’s an opportunity for Soldiers and family members to have a voice by submitting issues throughout the year,” said Elisabeth Olsen, Army Family Services family support officer. “Then, once a year at the AFAP conference, they have the opportunity to have their command address the issues.”

She said that, in addition to the opportunity, the delegates were given a tremendous responsibility to represent their Army community in Hawaii.

“I take the responsibility seriously because we are military families,” said delegate Chantay Burleson. “If we don’t try to improve things for ourselves, who will? We are military families, so we best understand the issues that impact us.”

 

Top 3 AFAP Issues

1- Extend the Army’s Employment Readiness Program to include teens, not just spouses.

2- Improve child care options for single and dual military families.

3- Increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks on USAG-HI installations.

 

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