|Army continues to build strength through families, AFAP
Source: Heidelberg Herald Post, 4 December 2008:By Bill Costlow Army Family Action Plan, Public Affairs Plan
Heidelberg Herald Post, 4 December 2008
Army continues to build strength through families, AFAP
By Bill Costlow Army Family Action Plan, Public Affairs Plans and Outreach
The Army is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the creation of the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) and leadership's ongoing commitment to families embodied in the Army Family Covenant (AFC).
The Army Family Covenant says that Soldiers' strength comes from their families. It pledges to provide for and support those families, increase the accessibility and quality of health care, improve Soldier and family housing and standardize and fund family programs and services.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. John Wickham signed a ground breaking "white paper" titled The Army Family on August 15, 1983. It identified the need for the Army to increase support to its families. Wickham and his staff asserted that a healthy family environment allows Soldiers to concentrate more fully on their mission.
“The readiness of our all-volunteer force depends on the health of the families," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren. “I can assure you that your Army leadership understands the important contribution each and every one of you makes. We need to make sure we step up and provide the support families need so the Army family stays healthy and ready.”
The Army was in transition in 1983 — the Army was moving from an organization composed mostly of draftees and short-term enlistees, to an all-volunteer, professional force consisting of more than 50 percent married personnel. Wickham set a new vision and course for Army families that carries on to this day.
AFAP was created with an initial planning conference 1984, the “Year of the Army Family.” Its mission is to help Army leaders address the needs and concerns of family members. The program uses family representatives from around the world to identify issues that will improve the standard of living for Soldiers and families. This feedback to leaders provides for policy changes that become tangible end-products for the Army family.
AFAP beneficiaries include Soldiers, retirees, Department of Army civilian employees and all their family members.
Delegates meet and vote on the top five conference issues every year. These issues are briefed at the next general officer steering committee. The process involves voicing of what's working and what isn't; and provides a recommended solution to fix it. Senior Army leadership is alerted to areas of concern that need their attention.
In the past 24 years, 633 issues have been identified. AFAP has driven 101 legislative changes, 147 Army policy and regulatory changes and 165 improved programs and services.
“We recognize what it takes to be an Army family, and that our Soldiers draw great strength from their families,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. “The welfare of Army families is increasingly important to all of us,” he said, adding that the Army was committed to building a partnership with families. That partnership is embodied in the Army Family Covenant.
Throughout the coming months and leading up to the Army Family Action Plan national meeting in Alexandria, Va., in January 2009, installations and garrisons around the world will conduct local AFAP meetings to identify key issues to be addressed by Army leadership.
Thanks to the foresight of Wickham and his staff 25 years ago, the needs of the Army family remain front and center in the hearts and minds of Army leaders around the world today and into the future.