Caring for People Forum -- community concerns discussed

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Air Force has a long-standing tradition of taking care of its people and takes pride in the positive work it has done to improve the quality of life for Airmen and their families. In 2009, the Air Force developed the Caring for People concept that quickly evolved into a preferred method for Air Force leaders to receive community feedback for review, action, and resolution.

Taking care of Airmen and their families is a top priority for the Air Force. To ensure our people are taken care of, commanders have the Community Action Information Board, and its action arm, the Integrated Delivery System Committee. The CAIB, a forum of helping agencies on base, work together to identify and resolve issues that impact the readiness of Airmen and their families.

The Edwards Air Force Base Integrated Delivery System held its first Caring for People forum in June 2011, asking active duty service members and Department of Defense personnel to participate in eight support groups discussing issues they felt most important or needing senior leadership's attention. The 2012 Caring for People forum is scheduled to be be held April 5, 2012 at Chapel 2 from 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. 

In preparation for the 2012 Caring for People forum, the IDS Committee will provide Team Edwards with a series of articles of the next several weeks with containing descriptions of the 2011 issues and their status as we work toward resolution.

The first group we'll discuss from the Caring for People forum is the Deployment Support Group. This body addressed two issues, rest and recovery upon returning from a deployment; and communication difficulties with loved ones down range.

The concern was the lack of consistency in the application of the policy and how it affects the ease of transition from combat to noncombat environment and the access to an extended support network. Participants of this group proposed if servicemembers were allowed to take leave in lieu of Rest and Relaxation, could R and R be treated similar to leave and eliminate the 4-day pass allowing base level leaders to make the decision on use of days accrued while deployed? The Air Force Materiel Command Integrated Delivery System Team explained to community members that military commanders need flexibility to manage the mission and must balance the workload. If R and R had no restriction on travel it would create difficulty in recalling members if required for the mission.

Another issue from the Deployment Support Group addressed communication difficulties while on deployment. While down range, some members have experienced dropped calls and lack of operator availability. Members also expressed a desire to have time limits increased as this affects morale. The proposed recommendations were to investigate available funding for upgrading communication, for example, what would it cost to have a 24-hour operator and allow members to call outside of designated calling area versus a solid Internet connection with availability of the appropriate hardware.

Morale call access and restrictions are handled via an automated system. Deployers are provided a PIN, and the system is loaded with authorized calling areas and it controls usage. Callers are authorized a standardized 30 minutes per week. Because the system is automated, an operator would only provide the capability to override the system, resulting in increased costs and arbitrary inconsistent privileges.

Additionally, when members return from a deployment they attend Airmen Resiliency Training at the Mental Health Clinic. During that appointment the technician will ask if the members experienced any problems with communicating with their family back home - for example dropped calls, unavailability of an operator, time limitations or other problems. Since July, only two of 24 returning members have reported communication problems. If you deploy and have communication issues, please make sure you report this in your post-deployment appointment with the Mental Health Clinic personnel who track this information and report to the IDS team.

In the upcoming Caring for People article, feedback will be provided on issues from the Health and Wellness working group.

For more information about the IDS Committee, Caring for People Forum, or if you would like to participate in this year's forum please contact Kim Shirley, IDS chairperson, at 661-277-7272 or by email at Kimberly.Shirley@us.af.mil.