Kelly Bice, left, Fort Drum Army Family Action Plan program manager, speaks with Fort Drum family member Allison Howell. Bice hosts focus groups with community members to discuss quality-of-life issues. AFAP was created in 1980 with a mission to help Army leaders address the needs and concerns of Soldiers, families, civilian employees, Gold Star family members and retirees, through a grassroots process. (Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum community members encouraged to join AFAP focus groups, discuss quality-of-life issues
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 2, 2023) – So far, participation in the Army Family Action Plan focus groups has been low this year.
As much as Kelly Bice, AFAP program manager, would like to see more people involved, she said it only takes a few people with good ideas – and the conviction to share them – to make a difference.
“We had a pretty good group attend the first focus group, but the numbers haven’t been great since then,” she said. “But I’ve also picked up issues outside the focus groups. I facilitated an AFTB (Army Family Team Building) session in partnership with AUSA (Association of the United States Army) for community leaders, and we picked up three or four issues just from those conversations.”
At the last focus group, it was Bice and one family member going one-on-one for more than an hour. Allison Howell has attended most sessions, in fact, because she said she believes the AFAP process works.
“I think we have a lot of families who just don’t know how to have a voice in what goes on in their community,” she said. “And they’re basically suffering in silence. AFAP is a phenomenal opportunity to address a problem with people who are willing to be an advocate and a champion on your behalf. Anytime you have something that attempts to create positive change, I love to support that.”
She said that child care was the issue she was most interested in discussing, both as a mother and a unit representative.
“This is something I’ve been advocating for almost the entire two years I’ve been here,” Howell said. “We got the ball rolling on some of our concerns, but just didn’t get over that hurdle we needed to. And so with Kelly, and what she is here to do through AFAP, she is able to get over that hurdle.”
Bice understands that conflicting work or school schedules, family emergencies, and lack of transportation are some of the reasons that keep people from becoming involved in AFAP. But there are more chances to participate this summer and fall, with the next focus group scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to noon July 20 at the USO.
In addition, AFAP suggestion boxes will be placed at various locations on post for community members to submit issues, to include the USO and Family Resource Center.
It’s been several months since Bice set up an information booth at the Exchange where she talked with patrons about the newly activated AFAP program.
“We haven’t had AFAP on post for a few years, so first I had to reintroduce the program to everyone who might not be aware it exists,” Bice said.
Howell said she first learned about AFAP after her family relocated to Fort Drum.
“Quite honestly, I’ve been married to a Soldier in the Army for 10-plus years and never heard of it until now,” she said.
AFAP was created in 1980 with a mission to help Army leaders address the needs and concerns of the total Army family through a grassroots process that prioritizes and elevates quality of life issues.
The program is intended to reach all groups – Soldiers, families, Army civilians, Gold Star family members, and retirees – with issues categorized into several areas: Soldier support; family support; military health care; civilian support; retiree support; survivor support; transition and employment support; benefits and entitlements; and youth support.
In the past 40 years, 761 issues that were elevated to the Department of the Army have resulted in 130 legislative changes and 223 improved programs and services. These include paternity leave, educational assistance for post-9/11 veterans, and family member employment in the civil service system.
“I’ve been working with AFAP for 20 years, and I can say for a fact that it works,” Bice said. “It’s still important to the Army, but we just have to figure out how to get more people involved.”
To learn more about AFAP, call (315) 772-6710 or visit www.facebook.com/people/Fort-Drum-AFTB-AFAP. The AFAP office is located inside the Family Resource Center, Bldg. 11042 on Mount Belvedere Boulevard.