Commander hears Yongsan community concerns
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Community leaders got their chance Wednesday to tell the 8th Army’s commander how the community — and sometimes the military — can do a better job treating its members.
The three-day Army Family Action Plan Conference focused on isolating issues of concern, sorting them and determining which agency should address them. But fewer issues were raised than in previous years, said Maj. Timothy Spann of the 8th Army Well-Being Council, because the quality of life has improved in South Korea.
The council is composed of colonels from major subordinate commands. Working groups on Wednesday presented issues for the council to consider next month, Spann said; the council then is to refer appropriate issues to the Department of the Army for consideration.
Lt. Gen. Charles Campbell, 8th Army commander, validates the recommendations as part of the General Officer’s Steering Committee, Spann said.
If an issue is being forwarded to Department of the Army level, “we’d like for it to impact the entire Army,” Spann said. Issues isolated to South Korea often can be resolved within 8th Army by changing regulations, he said.
Through 2004, Department of the Army AFAP conferences adopted 519 issues resulting in 85 changes to legislation, 133 changes to Army and Defense Department policy and 147 improvements to programs and services, according to the AFAP Web site.
At Yongsan Garrison, four groups presented 12 issues for consideration. The work groups are a demographic representation of Army families, including active duty and reserve soldiers, retirees, civilians and family members in South Korea.
In a conference room at the Dragon Hill Lodge Hotel, the groups energetically outlined both concerns and recommendations.
The Family Support Group:
• Highlighted the lack of clear information on how to get employment in South Korea. Only 13 percent of dependents are employed on base, said presenter Joe Gall, saying, “We can do better.”
• Called for issuing more information on child care fees. The fees in South Korea are 11 percent less than fees throughout the Army but still need to be better explained to those using the service, the group said. Gall suggested flyers or pamphlets clearly explaining program information.
• Suggested that parents be given about five days of permissive temporary duty travel to return to the United States to help their children visit colleges, Gall said.
The Force Support and Entitlements group recommended:
• Command enforcement of the education policy to ensure soldiers go to school and do well.
• Revising the Basic Allowance for Subsistence regulations for South Korea.
• Ensuring soldiers don’t have to spend their own money to comply with military equipment requirements.
The Medical Support and Entitlements group recommended:
• That the Army match contributions for all personnel in the Thrift Savings Plan.
• Revising USFK regulation 190-2 to let civilian retirees choose their own off-post medical facility and dental care. “Retirees are part of our family,” said presenter Cyndi Bisacre.
The Consumer Services/Housing and Relocation group:
• Cited expensive off-post housing as needing attention; it recommended following fair-market-value initiatives to stem price gouging from local landlords. The group suggested pursuing build-to-lease arrangements in which the U.S. government rents housing, said presenter Amy Brinson.
• Recommended building a track at Yongsan Garrison, which could cost from $800,000 for a small track to $3.1 million for a 400-meter facility, Brinson said. It was also recommended to move the project to Camp Humphreys if Yongsan Garrison relocation begins.
• Suggested offering more commissary items at expanded shoppettes at bases that do not have a commissary, Brinson said.
Campbell cautioned after the presentations that there were “lots of issues, finite resources. I will tell you, we are an Army at war.”
That means first priority and attention goes to the troops in the field, he said. Until that work is complete, the Army is going to have to leverage its limited resources against what is the most urgent need.
AFAP program coordinator Gretchen M. Miranda-Velez thanked all who participated in forming and presenting the issues. “Now the senior leadership knows your priorities,” she said.