By Rob McIlvaine, FMWRC Public Affairs
ARLINGTON, Va. — On the final day of the 2010 Army Family Action Plan
(AFAP) conference, delegates broke from individual working groups and
voted on the top-five issues that Army senior leaders will discuss at
the General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) meeting in June.
This feedback, they believe, can lead to policy changes that will
encourage Families “to consider the Army their home.”
Overall, the conference, held Jan. 11-15, brought 82 issues originating
from installation-level AFAP conferences held during the past year.
With these issues came nearly 100 delegates to whittle the original list
of concerns down to the 16 considered to be of the highest priority.
Resolving such problems helps to elevate the standard of living for
Soldiers, retirees, Family members, survivors and civilian employees,
said conference participants.
Indeed, this on-going process is considered paramount by Army leaders,
especially Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“Our challenge is to provide for Soldiers and Families as best we can,”
he told conference attendees.
“Your role is essential to help us focus on implementation of these
programs; to ensure they’re the best to provide what’s needed,” McHugh
Families, though, include children who also want a say in their own
issues and they want it seen from their point of view. Therefore,
accompanying the adult delegates were 13 Army Teen Panel members
representing the younger Army Family.
The group, led by Anthony Merriweather, presented two posters designed
for teens needing a boost in self-esteem and encouragement. The posters
are a method to get teens involved in many activities developed at each
“We used a different kind of English than most of you are used to,”
smiled Merriweather to the mostly adult audience. “We spoke to teens in
the language of texting, a shortened form of communicating.”
The teens also presented a 30-second commercial, another method to
encourage teens in becoming involved in youth centers, Armywide. The
applause and cheers from senior leaders — including Gen. Peter
Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, and Gen. George Casey, Army chief
of staff — meant they also reached an audience who can deliver changes
Before the top issues were voted upon, Casey briefed conference members
on Army plans for the coming year.
“The Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, and I have six major objectives
for 2011. We will continue our efforts to restore balance to the Army by
2011; execute Afghanistan plus-up and responsible drawdown in Iraq;
sustain Soldiers, Families and civilians; establish an integrated Army
management system; implement an Army leader development strategy; and
establish the Army of the 21st century.
“But the most important thing we will do is to increase the time
Soldiers stay home,” Casey said to enthusiastic applause.
Other programs, Casey noted, have been introduced and running for more
than a year but need to be revisited to ensure they continue to grow and
“The Army Family Covenant is one of the programs that we will continue
to put the right amount of funding into so that Family programs provide
for all Soldiers and their Families. Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Installation
Management Command commanding general, is just the man to get this job
done right,” Casey said.
With $225 billion budgeted for the service this year, Casey said the
funds are enough to ensure the six objectives he and Secretary McHugh
developed will be met, while ensuring Soldiers are well-trained and
As for the selected final AFAP issues that will all be forwarded to the
senior leadership meeting in June, “I’m sure it was difficult to arrive
at these top five out of the 16 ... you worked on all week,” said Ronnie
Thomas, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command chief of
Strategic Integrations Division.
The final issues selected to go forward are:
• Provide a monthly stipend to ill/injured Soldiers for non-medical
• Fund service dogs for wounded warriors;
• Provide for behavioral health services shortages by increasing the
number of readily available behavioral health providers and services and
the use of alternative methods of delivery such as tele-medicine;
• Authorize Family Readiness Groups to fund-raise in public places
external to National Guard armories, Reserve centers and military
• Authorize reserve-component Soldiers’ enrollment in the Exceptional
Family Member Program.
The remaining 11 issues will continue through the GOSC process until a
determination is made. They are: standard level of security measures in
barracks; availability of 24/7 child care with Child, Youth and School
Services delivery systems; reserve-component inactive duty for training
travel and transportation allowances; reduced eligibility age for
retirement of reserve-component Soldiers mobilized in support of
overseas contingency operations; extended transitional survivor spouses’
TRICARE medical coverage; active-duty Family members prescription cost
share inequities; supplemental mission funds for reserve-component
Family Readiness Groups; compensatory time for Department of the Army
civilians; reserve-component government employees’ and their Family
members’ access to TRICARE Reserve Select; TRICARE allowable charge
reimbursement of upgraded/deluxe durable medical equipment; and
standardization of the privatized housing application process.
But this isn’t the only list to keep Army leaders informed of what’s
important to Soldiers and their Families.
When Casey served as vice chief of staff, he asked what was working in
the Army and what wasn’t.
On the first day of the AFAP conference, delegates were given the task
of compiling this list and then voting on what challenges the Army
needed to address and what strengths they’ve accomplished.
Mobilization, Deployment and Family Readiness Strengths, determined by
AFAP delegates are: Army Community Service; Army Family Action Plan;
Army Family Team Building; Financial Counseling; Survivor Outreach
Services; Family Advocacy; Volunteer Program; New Parent Support; Army
Wounded Warrior Program; Chaplains’ Programs including Strong Bonds and
Unit Ministry Team; Army Family Covenant and Community Covenant; and
morale, welfare and recreation programs, including fitness, Better
Opportunities for Single Soldiers, leisure travel, and other recreation
Mobilization, Deployment and Family Readiness Challenges are: an
increasing suicide rate; length of deployments; impact of deployment on
children and youth; duplicate programs, such as Army Community Service
and Family Assistance Centers and Support for Wounded Warriors; and
funding for Family and deployment support programs.
Additionally, six critical active AFAP issues were voted on from the
remaining 70 issues reviewed during a GOSC meeting also held at the
While they will not make it into the June GOSC, they have been
determined to be most important; as a result, Army senior leaders will
continue to keep them foremost throughout the year.
The six are: military spouse unemployment compensation;
reserve-component post-mobilization counseling; convicted sex offender
registry; retroactive traumatic Servicemember Group Life Insurance;
bereavement permissive temporary duty; and medical entitlements for
college-age Family members
Summing up the meaning of the conference for delegates and attending
Army senior leaders, Soldiers and Families, McHugh used a quote from the
founder of the AFAP, some 25 years ago.
“As (retired) Gen. John A. Wickam, Jr. (former Army chief of staff)
said, ‘The stronger the Army, the stronger the Family.’”
See related story.)