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Military life is perfect, right? OK, maybe not.

Suggestions on what to fix — and volunteers to try to address the problems — are being sought by organizers of the annual Army Family Action Plan conferences, or AFAP, which start this month.

The conferences are held at garrisons throughout Europe. Attendees discuss issues big and small and make recommendations for commanders who can do something about them.

AFAP organizers just need more people to spend a few days working on the issues.

“The best thing is that they get to suggest solutions; they’re not just big griping sessions,” said Caraline Someck, an AFAP organizer whose conference in Darmstadt will be Feb. 21.

Someck said that all members of military communities can sit down at the AFAP table: dual-service couples, military spouses and dependents, civilians, retirees.

Those who are interested, or have issues to address, should contact their local Army Community Service office, Someck said.

“We need everything at this point in time,” Someck said. “We’re hoping after the holidays that people will think about some issues to submit.”

Sometimes it’s small problems, such as the sidewalk in Darmstadt leading from the Lincoln Village housing area to Cambrai Fritsch casern. People complained it was difficult to push strollers to and from the housing area. Now the sidewalk is fixed.

Big problems are especially wanted, Someck said, such as several years ago when the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance benefit was increased from $50,000 to $200,000 after people complained the benefit was too low.

Most Army communities, however, are still looking for problems and problem-solvers. Depending on the scope, issues could rise to the level of being tackled by Europe-wide and Army-wide AFAPs to be held later.

In Stuttgart, where the AFAP conference will be Jan. 30, coordinator Ligia Steers said that both delegates and issues are being requested.

“Parking on Patch Barracks will again be the main issue,” Steers, of Stuttgart’s Army Community Service office, said in an e-mail. “Family-member employment might also be high on the agenda.”

Working groups are formed at the conferences to address certain areas, according to Diane Smith, who heads up the Heidelberg AFAP team. A certain group might talk about health care issues, another would discuss housing, and another, child care. The combined Heidelberg-Mannheim conference will be Feb. 21-22.

“[The AFAP method] has gotten really, really well-defined,” said Smith, who has participated in the conferences since 1991. “It used to be we didn’t have the strong guidance we have now. That evolved over time. We were kind of left to our own devices before.”

At many garrisons, including Stuttgart, information on how to forward problems and participate in conferences can be found on garrison Web sites, as well as at the ACS offices.

On the Web: www.myarmylifetoo.com. Links to individual Army garrisons in Europe, where local AFAP information can be found, are at www.ima-e.army.mil


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