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August 13, 2010

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AFAP GOSC resolves 24 of 40 issues

I have always said you can either read history or make it. Many in our work force have made important history by asking the three fundamental questions: Are we doing the right things? Are we doing things right? What are we missing?

These questions compelled the work force to provide valuable feedback that helps us sustain the Army Family Covenant. Because of your voice and the Army’s commitment to taking care of Soldiers, Civilians and Families, you have added to the 27-year history of Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) quality-of-life (QOL) improvements, enabling us to do the right things the right way, and fix things that were missing.

One of the greatest achievements of the recent AFAP General Officer Steering Committee (GOSC) is resolving 27 of 40 QOL issues. The GOSC, composed of Department of Defense officials, Army leaders, and field representatives, reviewed some tough issues that require resources, legislation, and policy changes. In the end, the resolutions expanded Soldier entitlements and Civilian employment; enhanced medical and Family support; and improved facilities and relocation services for the Soldiers and Civilians who support our nation, and the Families who support them.

The AFAP is a year-round process that begins at the installation or unit level and is the pre-eminent means for commanders at all levels to learn of and seek solutions for the concerns of their communities. Currently, the Army is the only service with a program like AFAP.

Because of your voice, the Army is able to dedicate child and youth spaces to accommodate our special-needs children at Child, Youth & School Services facilities. Garrison commanders now have the authority to designate areas within their community for immediate special-needs child care. This resolution supports Soldier and Family well-being.

Our pledge to improve Family readiness is evident in the resolution of issue No. 562, an efficient and seamless delivery of Family support services with Army OneSource. This is a significant approach to reaching out to Families.

Information about Army Family programs, health-care benefits, education, and recreation is available online at http://www.myarmyonesource.com, and is easily accessible by Soldiers and Families regardless of geographic location. This one-stop shop for Army information is available for members of the active and reserve components.

We are ensuring excellence in schools through an online, one-on-one tutoring service for Army-affiliated students. Family members in grades K-12 can receive live online assistance with math, science, language, and introductory-level college courses. This worldwide service is available 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week at http://www.tutor.com.

Providing additional support to surviving Families with enhanced survivor Family dental benefits also was attained. Surviving children now can maintain coverage in the TRICARE Dental Plan through age 21, or age 23 if they are full-time college students.

Additionally, an issue requesting around-the-clock child care was resolved. The Army funded 24/7 child care facilities at 11 installations based on installation missions and projected demand. Family Child Care homes provide the same services at the remaining installations.

We have made great strides, but the committee agreed that six AFAP recommendations cannot be resolved because of resource constraints, lack of legislative support, or other factors. However, we decided to continue pursuing seven agenda items, such as increasing weight allowances for relocating Families and boosting medical retirement pay for some disabled Soldiers.

Above all, the AFAP continues to turn possibilities into realities. Since the first AFAP conference in 1983, we have established standards for child care, increased single-Soldier programs, granted paternity leave for new military fathers, and expanded educational benefits for Families.

This grass-roots process identifies and elevates the most-significant QOL issues that affect Soldiers, Retirees, Civilians, and Families.

Information provided through the AFAP process gives commanders and leaders insight into current satisfaction detractors, QOL needs, and expectations of the Army Community. Leaders use the information to effect changes that improve standards of living and support programs. These changes foster a satisfied, informed, and resilient Army Community.

We are entering a new era in AFAP. As the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, I am committed to ensuring all recommendations are thoroughly analyzed to determine if they are realistically achievable. To that end, I will be meeting with the Army staff proponents each month to analyze eight to 10 issues. I want to include the entire Army Family in this process by keeping them informed of the progress of each issue. As such, I invite you to visit Army OneSource, and select the Family Programs and Services menu to activate the AFAP Active Issue Search feature. Here, you can enter keywords to find related active issues, or insert an issue number to see a specific issue. You also may search by subject area, demographic group or geographic area to see what we are doing to improve QOL for those we serve. I also will keep you informed by publishing monthly updates and postings to my Facebook page.

I encourage you to continue asking these three fundamental questions about our programs and services: Are we doing the right things? Are we doing things right? What are we missing?

If you answer “no” to the first two questions or you think we are missing something, get involved and become part of the solution for improving the Army’s home — your home. Reading history is educational, but getting involved and making important history is an exceptional way of providing exceptional support to the Soldiers, Civilians, and Families in our home.

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