The Army made significant promises when it unveiled the Army Family Covenant in October 2007. With the covenant, the Army committed to providing Soldiers and their families a quality of life that acknowledges their service, sacrifice and dedication. This includes providing programs and services — including family programs, health care, housing, recreation, education and employment opportunities, and child, school and youth services — that build Soldier and family well-being.
Soon after I took my post, the Installation Management Command community conducted a review of AFC programs.
What Soldiers and families told us was that they have both too much and too little information on available services. Sometimes they did not know that there was a program designed to help with a specific need. Sometimes they knew of several programs available, but could not tell which one would be best for their situation.
We began looking at how we could improve access to program information through the source Soldiers and families already turn to: Army Community Service.
In fiscal year 2010, ACS staff had more than 14 million contacts with Soldiers, family members and civilians through programs such as Mobilization/Deployment Readiness, Relocation Readiness, Financial Readiness, Army Emergency Relief, Employment Readiness, the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Family Advocacy Program, Survivor Outreach Services, Soldier and Family Assistance Centers, Army Family Team Building, and the Army Family Action Plan.
We want to build on ACS’s central role in the life of an installation. So, based on feedback from 10 focus groups conducted in October, we have developed several ideas for enhancing and updating ACS’s capabilities.
One idea includes cross-training several ACS staff members in all basic ACS services and familiarizing them with other services available across the installation. With this information, they will be able to help clients access the programs that address their immediate concerns and take advantage of programs that help them meet longer-term goals.
Another idea is to move ACS delivery locations out to units, in/out processing centers, post exchanges, commissaries, Soldier Readiness Processing sites, community centers and off-post locations, in addition to ACS centers. ACS will also increase its delivery of services online through Army OneSource (www.myArmyOneSource.com).
We will continue to seek feedback on these and other proposed changes during focus groups I will hold during my upcoming visits to installations. I want to hear from you, Soldiers and family members about what will work for you, and from your leaders about how to enhance ACS support. We will use your input to design pilot programs at five installations. The pilot programs will run from April to October 2011.
ACS is there for Soldiers and family members now, when they are dealing with today’s concerns, and tomorrow, as they pursue long-term personal goals.
ACS is by no means the only organization on an installation providing services and programs that contribute to the quality of life for Soldiers and families, but it is often the first place they look. The work of ACS and other quality-of-life service providers is tangible proof that the Army is delivering on the promises of the Army Family Covenant.
Because of the importance of those promises, we in the Installation Management community are committed to providing a strong, supportive environment.