Army wants family input

By Ed Brock

There are a few issues Audra Rogers wants to bring up at the upcoming Army Family Action Plan Conference.

Communication is at the top of the list for the Stockbridge woman whose husband, Army Capt. Ron Rogers, is stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. Actually, the communication problem is more for a friend of hers whose husband is in the Army Reserves.

"When (Rogers' husband) would deploy we had a family support group. They always kept us up on what's going on," Rogers said. "She doesn't know what's going on."

Getting input like that is the purpose of the conference that will begin Wednesday at 8 a.m. in the Commons at Fort McPherson and will continue until Friday.

The conference is open to active and reserve soldiers, retirees, surviving spouses, civilians working for the Department of the Army and their families. Last year 15 issues were submitted during the conference, AFAP coordinator Bobbi Burk said.

"Two of those issues from last year went all the way to the Department of the Army," Burk said.

The Department of the Army will consider those issues at its conference in November, Burk said. One of the issues was "flexible child care spending accounts," Burk said, a concept popular in the private section in which money for child care expenses is deducted from the paycheck before taxes.

The other issue concerns Overseas Outside the Continental United States child care.

"When there are no available slots (for child care services) on post people have to go off post," Burk said.

That can be problematic in countries where English is not the native tongue and standards for child care are not the same as in America. The AFAP proposal is that the Army allow military personnel to bring a caregiver overseas and that the Army should pay the airfare for that caregiver and give them access to military services.

Some of the issues expected to come out of this year's conference are medical and dental coverage issues and allowing single soldiers living in barracks to buy a house. Current Army regulations only allow the soldiers to live in a house off base that was purchased before being assigned to a post, Burk said.

The issue of communication with the family of Army Reserve members may also be addressed, Burk said.

"(The Reserve) system is getting better. They're trying to catch up with the active side of the house," Burk said.

Some of the responsibility also falls on the spouses themselves, Rogers said.

"There are a lot of wives who don't participate and they don't know what's happening," Rogers said.

AFAP has been in existence for nearly 20 years.

"We're the only branch of the military to have this kind of service," Burk said.

Since its inception AFAP has had 519 issues adopted by the Department of the Army and made 126 changes in policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Burk said. They're responsible for 77 changes to national legislation and 139 improvements to programs and services, and 52 percent of the AFAP issues benefit other branches of the military as well.

For more information on the conference call Burk at (404) 464-3266 or call Kelly Walters at (404) 464-4182.