By Army Community Service and Staff Reports
FORT LEE, Va. – Just over 32 years ago, a ground-breaking “White Paper” published by then Army Chief of Staff Gen. John A. Wickham Jr., put a program into motion allowing military community members to voice suggestions and concerns with the idea of improving or fixing issues associated with their quality of life.
That program is called the Army Family Action Plan, or AFAP. Since its inception, it has resulted in more than 800 changes to policies and procedures related to pay, health care, family and Soldier support programs, barracks life, community recreation, child care, and quite a bit more. Some of those changes impacted troops and families throughout the Department of Defense.
“It’s an exciting process because it empowers service members, their families, retirees and Department of the Army Civilians,” noted Nancy Burns, Fort Lee’s Army Family Action Plan coordinator. “They get a say in what works, what doesn’t and what they think will fix it. Through those comments and recommendations, commanders and service leaders all the way up to the highest levels are alerted to areas requiring their attention, and the information provided helps them put plans into place to resolve many issues. It’s a powerful tool that really has made, and will continue to make, a difference for all of us.”
The Army Family Action Plan starts at the garrison level. In preparation for the Fort Lee conference like the upcoming one at Fort Lee Liberty Chapel on Oct. 6-8 – program coordinators like Burns invite Lee community members to submit “issue papers” that include a title, a three or four sentence description of the problem or issue being addressed (the scope), and the recommended actions that the submitter believes will result in resolution. Additional details can be found on the Army Community Service page at www.leemwr.com. For questions and issue paper submissions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There is no limit to the number of issue papers a community member can submit,” Burns said, “but the sooner we receive them, the better we can ensure we have all the information we need before the Fort Lee session begins.”
During the garrison conference, volunteer delegates are divided into working groups that discuss the submitted issue papers. Some recommendations will be given to agency directors for immediate consideration and possible implementation. Items that would require major changes to policy, procedure, etc., are presented to senior leadership during the Army Family Action Plan out-brief – the one here is set for Oct. 8, 11:30 a.m. at Liberty Chapel. Anyone in the community can attend that event.
“After the out-brief, senior leadership decides whether the action can be implemented locally, if it can be implemented at all due to cost or feasibility, or if it requires elevation,” Burns said. “If the issue requires elevation it will be sent directly to the Department of the Army for possible resolution.”
Visit http://bit.ly/1Dg3eTF to see the active list of issues that are being worked at the Army level as a result of the Army Family Action Plan.
“Without a successful ground-level program, the voice of our customers is silenced and senior leaders lose essential situational awareness of what is and is not working in our communities,” Christina Vine said, who oversees the Army’s Army Family Action Plan program. She also is an Army spouse and the mother of twins.
“The current program is particularly important,” Vine added. “As we transform to a garrison-based Army faced with unprecedented financial constraints, we need the voice of our customers to help guide and validate the changes the Army is making,”
Beyond submitting issues for the conference, Burns noted community members can contribute even more to the process by volunteering to serve as an Army Family Action Plan delegate, facilitator, transcriber, recorder, issue supporter and more. Those interested in helping can call Burns at (804) 734-7979 for additional details.
“The significance of this process cannot be overstated,” Burns said.
Burns explained that the Army Family Action Plan is the voice that helps Army leadership focus on the right programs and policies for the military community and demonstrate their commitment to providing support that is commensurate with the high level of sacrifice and service among Army Families.
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