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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Army suicide rates are on the rise and there’s no overseas suicide prevention hot line for at-risk soldiers, civilians and family members, a glaring shortcoming in services that needs to be fixed, according to delegates at the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s recent Army Family Action Plan conference.

The need to fund and staff a 24-hour overseas suicide prevention hot line that mirrors the current sexual assault response program was one of the top issues identified at the annual conference, held late last month at Daenner Kaserne in Kaiserslautern.

“With the Army having such a huge push on suicide prevention, that’s a hole that hasn’t been filled. There isn’t a hot line here,” said Olivia Gairy, the garrison’s AFAP program manager.

About 70 soldiers, airmen, civilians and family members brainstormed ways to improve their communities’ quality of life at the three-day conference, selecting 21 issues that might eventually reach the desktops of senior Army leaders at the Pentagon.

The garrison will form a committee of various agency representatives to review the issues and determine if they are ones best handled locally or should be forwarded up through the Army chain of command, Gairy said.

Something that would require government action or funding and would affect all of Europe, such as the suicide hot line, would be passed along to U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Europe, and possibly onto the Department of the Army, Gairy said.

Some issues can be solved locally. One in particular was raised by working teenagers concerned by the reduction in showings at the Vogelweh movie theater after a new multiplex theater opened at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center on Ramstein Air Base. The teens requested that the Friday 7 p.m. showing be designated as teen night, that the movie schedule be expanded and that the theater be opened on days when there is no school.

Conference resolutions: About 90 quality-of-life issues were submitted by the Kaiserslautern community forconsideration at the Army Family Action Plan conference. Among those the delegates prioritized:

Establish a larger and a combined Army and Air Force clothing sales store at Ramstein;Provide additional evening and weekend shifts during off-duty hours for family practice care at Army medical clinics and facilities in Europe;Improve quality and consistency of psychiatric and psychological care for combat veterans;Allow military spouses to transfer to comparable jobs when they move to a new installation, as opportunities arise, with all positions to count toward time in grade;Move from the National Security Personnel System back to General Schedule pay system;Improve the civilian fitness program;Create more family home care providers to address the lack of available full-time and hourly child care slots at Child Development Centers;Standardize fees at the child centers based on age of the child rather than total income;Authorize child care providers hourly slots in gyms so parents can work out while children are in child care;Allow meal card holders to pay for only meals they consume, and be reimbursed for meals they do not eat;Require soldiers to obtain a stateside driver’s license before enlisting in the Army.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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