Child care a top issue at Yongsan conference

Parents present their concerns to commanders through skits

By ASHLEY ROWLAND | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 26, 2008

SEOUL — It’s tough finding someone to change dirty diapers — even if you pay them.

That’s why parents sometimes have a hard time reserving child care at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan’s Child Development Center. Lack of child care was one of seven issues delegates presented through skits Friday to garrison commanders during the Yongsan Army Family Action Plan Conference.

Garrison commander Col. Dave Hall said increasing staffing at the CDC was his "No. 1 issue" after the two-day conference, in which delegates considered 226 quality-of-life issues submitted by community members.

"The money for staffing isn’t the issue," Hall said. "It’s the ability to hire people that want the job. It’s hard work, and it’s hard to keep them for more than a month or two."

Over a recent two-month period, the center hired 17 new workers and lost 19, he said. The garrison is considering salary increases and other incentives to help recruit employees for the CDC, he said.

Center employees earn about $10 an hour plus benefits.

The center needs 17 more employees to reach its full staffing level of 64, he said.

Hall said his second priority among issues presented during the conference is building a commissary at K-16 Air Base, an installation housing 1,100 troops and family members on the outskirts of Seoul.

It can take two hours to get to Yongsan’s commissary because of traffic, leaving servicemembers little or no time to buy groceries at the end of a workday.

Hall said K-16 could get funding for a new commissary as early as Nov. 9, when the Defense Commissary Agency’s board of directors is scheduled to discuss it. The garrison already has a design for a small commissary, which would cost roughly $1 million to $4 million, he said.

Hall said it’s not clear who would pay for it — DECA, the U.S. Army, or the garrison.

Family Action Plan work groups met Thursday and presented their top concerns to garrison officials on Friday through skits. In one, people on crutches and a woman with a baby and a stroller struggled to enter the First Replacement Company/Yongsan Readiness Center building for in-processing.

Delegates said the building needs a ramp.

In another, a teenager complained he couldn’t get a job on base and was smoking because he was bored, highlighting the need for on-base jobs for teenagers and a garrison ban on underage smoking.

Federal jobs are open to people who are at least 18.

Other concerns presented at the AFAP conference:

• A discrepancy in how servicemembers and civilians pay for their off-post housing. Troops pay monthly, but civilians usually pay in lump sums that cover their rent for a year or more, making them more attractive to landlords. Delegates said servicemembers also should be allowed to make lump sum payments, or payment methods should be made standard for both groups.

• Limited support services are available during lunch hours. Delegates suggested beginning a lunch rotation policy so servicemembers can run errands without affecting their duty hours.

All 226 issues considered by delegates will be referred to the garrison’s AFAP Steering Committee, which meets monthly.

Conference delegates list top 5 issues

Delegates to the Yongsan Army Family Action Plan Conference also ranked Armywide issues. The rankings are to be used to help the Army gauge interest in different topics among troops around the world, Yongsan spokesman Dave McNally said.

The top five were:

1. Distribution of Montgomery GI Bill benefits to dependents

2. Chiropractic services for all Tricare beneficiaries

3. Paternity permissive TDY

4. Teen program standardization

5. Expand Tricare Retiree Dental to overseas locations

— Stars and Stripes

A woman with a baby and a stroller acts out trying to enter the First Replacement Company / Yongsan Readiness Center in a skit in front of Yongsan officials.

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