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HEIDELBERG, Germany — In 1996, Kelly Gemin realized that, just by volunteering, she had the power to link the Army and its family members together in an understanding relationship.

She got out of the Army and, at the advice of a friend, attended her first Army Family Team Building meeting, though Gemin thought there wasn’t anything a bunch of civilians could teach her about the Army after 12½ years of being in the service herself.

She found out she was wrong.

Now, after eight years of volunteering, Gemin said she can’t figure out where AFTB begins or ends in her life. She is focused on making Army families more knowledgeable, strong and able.

Gemin, who received one of three awards given in Germany at the first Department of the Army AFTB ceremony in South Carolina this month, said she was honored by the recognition.

Along with Gemin’s Instructor of the Year Award for the 221st Base Support Battalion, the Wiesbaden community she volunteered in also earned the Medium Installation Program of the Year award and Candy Wojdakowski, an AFTB volunteer in the 411th BSB in Heidelberg, received the Instructor of the Year award for her community.

The new Army-level awards that came after 10 years of AFTB operations were a surprise to the recipients, but Gemin said the work they do isn’t for recognition — it’s for the love of the program.

She explained that numerous studies indicate that soldier performance, readiness, and retention relate directly to family satisfaction with Army life. This satisfaction is gained through understanding and confidence, which AFTB provides through classroom instruction and online courses.

Gemin is one of these teachers, having made it to the top level as a core instructor.

When she arrived to Germany in December 2000, she worked just as hard as an AFTB volunteer in Wiesbaden as she did in her regular job at the commissary, spending nearly the same amount of hours with both tasks.

Now, Gemin has a permanent, paying position with the AFTB program in Hanau, where she lives. It is the only paying slot within AFTB, since it is a volunteer-led organization.

In her job as program manager, she collects statistics, selects candidates for the master trainers and program managers courses and manages funds. The paid position helps give some continuity to the local AFTB programs, since volunteers come in and out of communities so quickly, Gemin explained.

Ricky Gibbons, chief of Army Community Service for the Installation Management Agency-Europe, which AFTB falls under, said the team building program is an integral part of each community.

“AFTB is a neat cycle that matures as we go along,” Gibbons said, explaining that instructors are always learning new details of the military and training in better ways. “Having this, after 10 years, be the first culmination and we receive three out of the six major awards given is unbelievable,” she said.

Every community AFTB program is slightly different, since instructors bring in their own stories and ideas, as well as offer specific snapshots of military communities in different areas.

For more information, or to join AFTB, go to www.armyfamilyteambuilding.org.

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