Caring for people

  • Published
  • By Al Strait
  • 21st Space Wing Director of Staff
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Caring for People Forum in Washington, D.C. Professionals from the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Health and Wellness Center, Community Action Information Board and the Integrated Delivery System were present. While the forum was held for 2 and a half days, gathering information took months of planning.

During the planning phase, the major commands submitted 67 issues from their respective units. The issues or ideas were all related to deployment support, family support, health and wellness, medical support, readiness and training, and Reserve and Guard support. There were also special panels involving spouse support, single Airmen, and an Air Force Teen Council. The goal of the forum was to review the issues and concerns impacting the Air Force Family and develop a top 10 list of initiatives, which in turn would be briefed to the Air Force Community Action Board.

You might be asking yourself, why is this important and how does this impact me? From the 2010 Caring for People Forum, Air Force leadership was very aggressive in adopting items from the top 10 list. For example, the Air Force took the initiative to fund 35 full time Exceptional Family Member Program coordinators, of which Peterson was one of the bases that gained this position. Also, great emphasis was placed on the Key Spouse Program, which helped reinvigorate this program. The programs and many other programs supported by the CAIB and IDS are key to ensuring we are taking care of our Airmen and their families.

This year Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley opened the forum by challenging forum participants to look at all proposed initiatives and work on making our Air Force more resilient. During breakout sessions, forum members tackled the issues and in the end recommended 30 initiatives to all forum members. From these 30 initiatives the forum voted on the final 10 initiatives which were then briefed to the Air Force CAIB.

The top 10 initiatives are: flexibility of the daily cap for child care programs, flexible funding streams for deployment support, optimize medical clearance for families with special needs, reinvigorate and track Air Force Sponsorship program, provide flexibility to dormitory living, 24/7 availability of healthy, low-cost food options on base, improve Air Force fitness culture, synergize fitness and healthy lifestyle improvements, continuity and standardization of total force EFMP and under-used special needs services among ARC.

Again, you may ask why this is important to me. All initiatives are focused on care of the Air Force family. It is to make good programs better and increase awareness. As I left the forum several points really stuck with me.

First we need to encourage our personnel to get help when needed. All of us need some form of assistance, but there is still the stigma of being weak if we seek help. We need to turn this stigma around and encourage our personnel to use the programs provided by our helping agencies.

Second, we need to continue to properly prepare our Airmen for war and take all the required steps of care as we welcome them home. Finally, senior leadership sets policy and puts pen to paper, but it is our Airmen who through their dedication, commitment and professionalism ensure mission success. I am convinced these initiatives and future initiatives will continue to improve the quality of life for our Airmen and their families - the process works.