Forum provides base key venue for feedback
Colonel Brian Killough, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, fields questions from members of the Maxwell-Gunter community during the Caring for People Forum Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)
Forum provides base key venue for feedback

by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs

6/10/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Members of the Maxwell-Gunter community let their voices be heard at the installation, major command and Air Force levels during the Caring for People Forum Tuesday.

Nerissa Keeler, the Integrated Delivery System chair who organized the event, thanked participants for improving conditions for Airmen and the families.

She said she appreciated the "willingness to serve not only your family but the others who have access to Maxwell-Gunter services."

Forum participants were divided into working groups, discussed problems in the community and the Air Force, then brainstormed solutions.

Each group submitted suggestions to be sent to the major command forum June 24. That meeting will produce initiatives to forward to the Air Force forum in July.

"We're actually giving you an opportunity to problem solve and suggest a solution," Ms. Keeler told the group of about 40.

Two initiatives developed from the previous two Air Force Caring for People Forums include the key spouse network and school liaison officer.

"This forum does work," she said. "It may take time, but your efforts are not in vain."

"We value your input, we need your input," said Col. Brian Killough, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. "You will impact the Airmen that follow you ... just as the folks who went before made it better for you."

Some of the problems and suggestions that will go to the major command level are:

· The current pre-deployment training is lengthy, and the process takes away from family time before deployment. Also, certain skills are better learned face-to-face, not on a computer, as is the current practice. A suggestion is a two- or three-day class to cover all the needs, which would include hands-on training for certain areas, such as first aid.

· The two-week reintegration break is not classified as leave, so Airmen are unable to leave the local area to visit families and take vacations. A solution is to classify the leave as uncharged since they should not be forced to take leave when returning from deployments.

· Many pre-deployment responsibilities are contingent on orders, which are provided within a few days of departure. Thus, service members are scrambling before deployments. A suggestion is to change policies regarding which services require orders, such as medical. This issue also is important to Guard members and Reservists, who also would like a Tricare representative on base to provide them with assistance.

· There is no Air Force Instruction governing the Key Spouse program. One is needed to standardize policies, provide training and manage funding. This directive should be applied across bases and branches to ensure consistent communication for spouses and avoid discrepancies among installations.

· The Air Force Personnel Accountability and Assessment System is not available for wing commander use. The group said the system should be fixed to allow wing commanders to use as needed to provide local assistance.

Some of the recommendations at the local level are:

· Military families want their children to attend Maxwell Elementary School, which currently is open only to families living on base. A solution would be to open enrollment and have families who live off-base provide transportation.

· Communication between dorm residents and chains of command sometimes breaks down. A suggestion is to have monthly dorm council meetings with minutes to track problems and ensure issues are resolved.

· Spouses and families are always looking for ways to improve communication. A solution is to have a Maxwell commanders' call for spouses to ensure information is released in a timely manner.

· The stray animals on base are a nuisance. The group suggested that the installation hire staff to control the stray cat population.

· The health and wellness center is not accessible enough on base. Suggestions include creating and mailing a newsletter through the Key Spouse network, taking services to the people by offering programs around base, and hosting a monthly lunch and learn featuring guest speakers.