|Annual symposium identifies issues
Source: By USAIC Public Affairs Office, Michelle L. Gordon
Fort Benning Bayonet, 31 Oct 2008
Annual symposium identifies issues
By USAIC Public Affairs Office, Michelle L. Gordon
More than 75 issues affecting the Fort Benning community were discussed by delegates at the annual Army Family Action Plan Symposium, which was held Oct. 22-24.
At the three-day conference, volunteers from around the installation were divided into seven working groups to discuss issues submitted throughout the year. The issues were then prioritized and the top three from each group were briefed to Fort Benning Commanding General Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski at the conclusion of the conference.
“Each group looked at between 15 and 20 issues submitted by the community,” said Sarah Hertig, 75th Ranger Regiment Family Readiness Assistant and AFAP volunteer. “So even though only three from each group were briefed, all of the issues were addressed, discussed and will be acted on by the command group.”
One of the top issues presented this year was improving deployment cycle support for Reserve Component Soldiers. The scope of the issue stated that reserve Soldiers are at risk for suicides, domestic violence and undisclosed mental issues because they are released from active-duty status immediately upon returning home. The work group recommended extending active-duty status to 60 days for reintegration purposes.
Wojdakowski said this is a top initiative with the Chief of Staff of the Army and it will definitely be an issue Fort Benning sends forward for further action by the Department of the Army.
“Ten years ago, reserve component and National Guard Soldiers were considered the ‘strategic reserve of the Army,’” he said. “They are not that anymore. They are an operational force. They are routinely deployed alongside active-component Soldiers and we can’t afford to desert those Soldiers when they return home after serving 12 to 14 months in Iraq.”
In addition to deployment support, improving the Fort Benning medical system was also at the top of the list. Citing already slow wait-times and limited appointment availability, the scope of the issue stated the new hospital would not adequately meet the needs of Fort Benning’s projected population growth. The group recommended increasing the availability of healthcare in anticipation of the expanding post needs due to the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
“We got it,” said Wojdakowski. “The last thing I, or anyone in this command, wants to do is build a hospital that is already too small to meet the needs of Fort Benning 2012 and we will not quit until we have the appropriate size hospital.”
Issues such as reserve Soldier reintegration and hospital size can not be addressed on a local level, so they will forwarded to the Training and Doctrine Command AFAP conference and ultimately to the Department of the Army. However, issues such as providing evening child care at Smith Fitness Center and establishing an on post department of motor vehicles office will be worked and discussed by on post agencies over the next few months.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of AFAP. Since its inception, thousands of issues have been raised and more than 600 of them were elevated to the Department of the Army level. Hertig has volunteered with AFAP for the last seven years and she said she continues to get involved despite the workload because she understands the importance of the program.
“I know the power of AFAP,” she said. “It allows Soldiers and families to have their voices heard by leadership. It’s a mechanism of change and a great way for the Army community to have a say in what their Army looks like.”