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September 6, 2012

By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 6, 2012) -- Sometimes people need a soapbox to stand on to get their issues heard, and the Army Family Action Plan gives people on Fort Rucker a platform to stand on to do just that.

The local-level AFAP conference will be held at the Wings Chapel Oct. 10-11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and anyone that wishes to have their issues reviewed must have them submitted by Sept. 28, according to Shellie Kelly, Army Community Service Army Family Team Building and AFAP program manager.

"People can submit their issues directly to me at the ACS office, or can do so online as well," said Kelly. People can visit our website to submit an issue.

"There are also boxes at many Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities around the installation that people can submit their issues to," she added.

When people submit an issue, Kelly said they should make sure to clarify what the problem is, why it is a problem and have a recommendation to fix the problem.

"One of the really cool things about the AFAP program is the vetting process," she said. "The process ensures that everything that is submitted is really well researched and the cost is thought out. It's all looked at from A to Z before it moves forward."

Some of the programs and accomplishments that have come about because of AFAP are Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, Army Volunteer Corps, Military Thrift Savings Plan, increased military annual leave carryover and distribution of the Montgomery GI bill benefits to dependents.

A local-level AFAP conference is held each year where all the issues that are submitted are brought before garrison leadership and discussed, said Kelly. It is at this conference where it is decided whether or not issues can be dealt with on the installation level, or if they need to be sent to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command level.

"The conference is a two-day conference and there will be four work groups with 10-15 people in each work group," said the AFAP manager. "During the conference we will do delegate training and teach them how to analyze and write an issue to be briefed to command."

The delegates are a mixture of Soldiers from different units that are tasked to work the issues as well as volunteers that include additional Soldiers and Family members.

After the training is complete, the delegates will break up into their work groups and go over each of the issues, one-by-one, prioritizing them from most to least important, said Kelly. They will then choose the top two or three issues that they feel are the most important.

"These issues will then be rewritten to be reported to garrison leadership," said the AFAP manager. "At the end of the second day, each work group will report directly to (Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general), on what their findings were."

The conference will also have facilitators to lead the process to make sure that issues that have been worked in the recent past aren't brought up again during the conference.

"The Army Family Action Plan exists to give a voice to every member of the total Army Family," said Kelly. "We address quality of life issues that range from pay and benefits, to Family programs, installation facilities, child development centers, dog parks and anything that will make a Soldier or Family member's life better."

If an issue that is brought before the AFAP committee cannot be dealt with at the installation level, it will then be passed on to the TRADOC level, but 90 percent of submitted issues can be resolved at the garrison level, said Kelly.

If an issue reaches the TRADOC-level conference, and if it is prioritized from there, it will head on to the Headquarters Department of the Army level, which is Army-wide.

Last year, Fort Rucker submitted an issue that not only went to the HQDA-level conference, but was marked as the No. 1 issue to be taken on.

"Since AFAP began in 1983, it has resulted in 126 legislative changes, 177 Army and [Department of Defense] changes, and 197 program and service changes," said the AFAP manager. "The main thing is getting the issues in front of leadership, because anything that is brought forward here will be looked at by (Col. Stuart J. McRae), garrison commander and the commanding general."

Kelly said that if people don't submit an issue, it will never be heard, and that's why the program is important. It gives people that forum to speak on their issues.

"You hear people's gripes all the time, but if you don't take the time to submit an issue, it's never going to get fixed," she said. "From the leadership's perspective, they can't see what's going on if people don't tell them. Everyone has a role to play and change has to be initiated."

For more information, call 255-2382.