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VICENZA, Italy — If Caserma Ederle is any indication, there are some Army programs that the service should be proud of.

Delegates attending a two-day Army Family Action Plan Conference this week gave generally high marks to programs such as Army Community Services; Morale, Welfare and Recreation; and Child and Youth Services.

But that doesn’t mean improvements can’t be made. And that’s what the AFAP conferences are all about, said Col. Virgil Williams, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza.

AFAP is “a very valuable way of sharing, or at least giving input, to the Army leadership,” Williams told the delegates, who started off with 49 issues that community members had submitted over the past few months and added a few of their own during the meetings.

“Some we’re going to take on at the local level,” Williams told delegates. “And some we’ll have to forward” up the chain of command.

Delegates — made up of a variety of people from different sectors across the base — were broken into five subject matter groups. Each of those could choose two or three items to put forward. Topics ranged from expanding hours at customer service facilities to eliminating the need for soldiers to be required to perform dining hall chores.

A steering committee at Vicenza will meet to decide which issues to forward to the U.S. Army Europe level. Similar conferences are being held throughout Army communities in Europe, and a delegate from each base will meet in Weinheim, Germany, from May 12-16 to discuss all the recommendations made across USAREUR.

Another list will be sent from there to an Armywide conference in the States.

Rose Holland, who has attended the Army level conference, is the AFAP coordinator in Vicenza. She said those based at Caserma Ederle benefit from regular town hall meetings that serve to address most local issues.

“So when we have a conference like this, our delegates are able to look beyond the local,” she said.

Not always, though.

Ebony Taylor and Morgan Sanders, representing a group of teens, listed their top issues as regulations that prohibit those under 16 from working out in the fitness center by themselves and a lack of social activities with teens from other bases. With the exception of school sports and a few other extracurricular activities, Taylor said, “there is little interaction between us and other military posts.”

Of course, that might have something to do with location. Aviano Air Base is about a 90-minute drive away from Ederle and the next closest base — Camp Darby — doesn’t have a high school.

Location also played a role in two issues put forward by the team tackling medical issues.

Spokeswoman Melissa White listed problems with care those from Vicenza receive at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Vicenza pays more than $200,000 annually for buses to transport patients to Germany once or twice a week. The trip takes a day each way, and patients often end up with a 15-minute visit with a doctor, only to receive a referral to a specialist a week later.

Delegates are tasked to not only come up with issues but also to recommend solutions to the problems.

For instance, family members travel with official passports that carry a statement in the book noting their affiliation with the U.S. military. That could unnecessarily expose them to danger, delegate Rich Breen said. The solution? Eliminate the statement.

Holland noted past AFAP initiatives have contributed to such actions as raising life insurance benefits and creating the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.

Issues raised at Vicenza’s AFAP conference

Issues put forward by delegates at the Army Family Action Plan conference at Caserma Ederle:

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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