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November 7, 2012

By Sarah Pacheco, Hawaii Army Weekly, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- The Army Family Action Plan, or AFAP, kicked off its annual conference, here, Oct. 29.

The weeklong conference opened with training and orientation at the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade's Multifunctional Room of Excellence, where delegates learned more about how their involvement with the AFAP process can improve the quality of life for Soldiers, their families and the entire Army community.

"This is a huge undertaking," said Col. Daniel Whitney, commander, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, in his opening-day address to delegates. "I can't stress enough, this is critical. You have a wealth of experience to solve these problems, and I applaud your volunteerism to provide your perspective."

Whitney advised participants to not lose sight of local issues that can be solved at the installation level, but to also remember that what comes out of AFAP could potentially affect the Department of Defense as a whole.

"Our biggest challenge this year is that there are a lot of issues affecting the entire DOD, not just the Army," said Heather Miles, program manager, AFAP, Army Community Service; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation; USAG-HI.

According to Miles, top issues brought up during this year's AFAP concern on-base parking, physical training routes, the sex offender registry, benefits for same-sex partners, and how employment benefits are affected when employees switch between non-appropriated and appropriated fund positions.

AFAP is a grassroots process that identifies issues of concern to America's Army family. Representatives from all aspects of the Army community volunteer to be delegates, who help pinpoint and elevate the most significant quality-of-life issues impacting Soldiers, retirees, Department of the Army civilians and families to senior leaders for action.

Over the course of the conference, held this year in Building 102, here, delegates were split into six work groups -- Benefits and Entitlements; Housing and Facilities; Force Support; Family Support; Medical and Dental; and Employment -- to discuss current issues and prioritize the ones they believe are most important.

Facilitators and recorders help keep delegates on track, while subject matter experts provide subject knowledge and issue support personnel ensure issues are clearly written out and do not duplicate those already up for discussion.

Once finalized, the top three issues are presented to garrison senior leaders by a spokesperson from each work group during a Report Out, being held at the Nehelani, Schofield Barracks, today (Nov. 2).

"We're not trying to solve the issues; we're trying to come up with recommendations to pass on to leadership," Miles said.

(Editor's Note: In part two of the series, Pacheco reviews the Report Out at the AFAP conference.)