Three communities and three military branches came together in the KMC for the first tri-community Armed Forces Action Plan conference Oct. 23 to 26.
Delegates, volunteers and subject-matter experts from the U.S. Army Garrisons Kaiserslautern, Baden-Württemberg and Baumholder, representing the Army, Air Force and Navy, blended together for the conference, which also included team members from the Airman & Family Readiness Center from the 86th Airlift Wing.
“This is a grassroots program and an opportunity for people in the community to bring up issues they see that they feel are important,” said Michelle Thomas, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Army Community Service director.
Delegates, representing a cross-section of the community, were broken into six groups and each given 10 issues to prioritize, according to Thomas.
“If they can fix the issue locally, that is exactly what will happen. They will talk to the local resource behind that issue and see if they can fix it,” added Thomas, noting that each group had the chance to submit three issues for consideration to be elevated.
And they do get elevated.
Over the years, the AFAP has yielded increases in life insurance benefits, the Thrift Savings Plan for service members, and transferability of their GI benefits to their eligible children, among many other quality of life improvements.
“It literally can have life-changing implications,” said Kristin James, the AFAP program manager for the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.
“In some cases, it can literally change someone’s life, whether that’s capping the fees for child care, so that a family has more disposable income, whether it’s giving rights to a survivor, to have access not only to their local installation but a recognizable ID card that allows them to go to an installation where their service member was serving to visit that memorial, it’s life-changing,” James said.
Immediately upon opening the conference, organizers opened the door for next year’s issues in this year-round process that involves following current and open issues while taking in new ideas.
“I have done AFAP for about seven years now. I do it because I am enthralled with how the process works,” said Diane Isla, the AFAP volunteer supervisor, whose husband and daughter also participate in the program. “I think it’s amazing, I think what it brings to the military community is shaping the future of the Army.”
By the end of the conference, the groups had selected 17 issues for prioritization, while the others were developed into disposition papers, closing them for this year’s conference, James said.
Once committees have had a chance to evaluate issues, they will be posted at the garrison homepage.