News: AFAP: Powerful process improves Yongsan community
Story by Nikki Maxwell
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - The Army Family Action Plan is the opportunity to address issues and concerns submitted by members of the community throughout the year. U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan hosted their annual AFAP at South Post Chapel, Oct. 9-10, 2013.
During their AFAP training day, delegates learned how to prepare their scope and statement of the problem, while listing their recommendations. They were asked to be realistic, keeping the garrison's transformation plan in mind when considering issues and possible resolutions.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of United Nations Command, ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, spoke to the delegates and subject matter experts as they prepared for the conference.
"AFAP has been essential to improve quality of life for all branches of the Service," Scaparrotti said. "A good community allows everyone to contribute ideas to improve it. That is why we bring in a diverse group of people like you to help make a difference."
Scaparrotti commented on how things have changed during his Army career. "When I was a platoon sergeant we didn't have anything like this," he said. "Today, as leaders, we need your help to make some tough decisions about financial priorities here in your community."
With that financial factor in mind, Col. Michael Masley, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan commander, established a special group of delegates this year to focus on methods for the command to cut spending.
According to Denise Chapell, family programs specialist for Eighth Army, Yongsan is the only garrison in the Pacific with an AFAP 'Finance Group.'
"That [finance group] was Col. Masley's brainchild," explained Army Community Services Director Floyd Davison. "The most successful part in my opinion was their input because we gained community awareness that the garrison's financial situation needs to be a focus."
During his opening conference comments, Masley thanked the delegates for taking the time to improve their community.
"You're all making a difference in the quality of life of our Area II military community," Masley said. "Today, and over the course of the next few days, we're here to create change - very important change. And in order to do that, we need the help of each and every one of you."
Scaparrotti echoed Masley's message to the group of delegates who were preparing to tackle 49 issues submitted by the community.
"Don't just think about everyday things that need to be done. Think about 'vision,' and what it will take to make it happen," Scaparrotti said.
AFAP ideas are implemented globally, not just locally. Previous AFAP success stories include the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Wounded Warrior Program. Some examples of AFAP results originating in Yongsan include a change in policy allowing soldiers to carry backpacks in uniform, and the creation of the vehicle bridge connecting Main Post and South Post.
Each State government reviews the overall results from the AFAP each year. One result from this review includes the development of "In-state tuition" programs for military dependants.
During the recent Yongsan AFAP, 49 issues were submitted and each group of delegates was assigned different topics to tackle. The topics included child care, gym services, spouse employment, dental care, postal services and ration control. Each submitted issue was carefully reviewed by the delegates, and each group selected a few key issues to focus on and develop recommended solutions.
"Last year most of the issues were about creature comforts and specific soldier issues. This year many of the issues submitted were related to potholes and fees at FMWR," Davison added. "So it's obvious that money is driving the majority of our issues this year."
The issues have 30 days to mature then a steering committee reviews the issues (Nov. 13). Once they are cleared, the results are published to the community. This differs from previous years. In 2011, the AFAP results went to 8th Army for a mid-level review. In 2012, the results went to U.S. Army Pacific for review. This year, the results go directly to the General Officer Steering Committee, at the Department of the Army level. The process was streamlined this year to save money.
USAG Yongsan will review Korean issues with 8th Army and USFK for issues that can be solved on the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, the subject matter experts are taking action on the issues that can be fixed immediately, and will attend the steering committee meetings as the issues are reviewed.
"AFAP was successful because the community had a voice. It [AFAP] raised awareness of community issues for senior leaders across USFK, and connected our citizens with the people who can address their concerns," Davison said. "When the system assessments were completed we had a better than 92 percent positive grade from the participants. No AFAP is ever perfect, but I am happy with how it went this year."
"There was exceptional command support from the installation and tenant partners," Davison said. "It was an example of quality partnership from across the peninsula."
Following the two-day conference, a representative from each of the four groups presented their top issues and proposed resolutions to Area II leaders. Some of the issues included the need for a tracking system for incoming mail and packages, a luggage allowance for DoD civilians when they are transferring to another duty station, and adjustments to post run transportation shuttles for people with physical disabilities.
Brigadier General Chris Gentry, deputy commanding general for sustainment, Eighth Army congratulated the teams on their thoughtful proposals.
"Thank you for your work on these issues," Gentry said. "I hope you will keep this level of support for your community."
"Your ideas, your recommendations, and your voices have made possible the opportunity to contribute to the military way of life here on Yongsan that is both a part of your family and your home," Masley said. "By being here this week, you have already helped make Yongsan and our military stronger and more prosperous. I hope that after being a part of this AFAP conference here on Yongsan, you know that your contributions truly will make a difference in the army with the issues that will be pushed to higher command," Masley said.
Masley described some examples of past AFAP conference successes, including the establishment of minimum standards for Army child care, the military thrift savings plan, and allowing soldiers with six years of service to transfer their unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents.
"These are all truly amazing, and the issues that you helped solve are just another example of ideas to better our whole Army community," Masley said. "That's the promise of AFAP - That anyone can write the next chapter in our military life."
The AFAP process continues year-round. There are 12 permanent issue submission boxes located throughout the Area II community. You can also visit the website, www.myarmyonesource.com to submit an issue for consideration at the 2014 AFAP.