Caring for People Forum churns out solutions, improvements

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The 52nd Fighter Wing community support coordinator recently briefed wing leaders on the final results of the 2016 Caring for People forum.

The Feb. 1 forum allowed community members to voice concerns and develop solutions to quality-of-life issues at Spangdahlem Air Base.

"The key is you have a voice to bring out your concerns, have them worked on and have them looked at seriously," said Helena Palmer, 52nd FW community support coordinator. "You are a part of the solution; your voice is heard, but you're often a part of that solution."

More than 80 volunteers participated in the forum to identify and address pressing issues on base along six topic areas: housing support; child and youth activities; single Airman support; health and fitness; schools; and spouse support. 

During the daylong event, the following issues, as well as recommendations were identified.

"I want to say a big thank you to everybody who either facilitated or had inputs or came up with solutions," said U.S. Air Force Col. Steve Horton, 52nd FW vice commander, during the forum's conclusion. "This is our community - all of us. Thank you very much for trying to make Spangdahlem even better."

Caring for People Forum

The list below includes action taken or to be taken on these proposals. 

Issue:  Not all of the front windows and doors are frosted in the base townhouses, which causes a privacy concern for many residents.
Recommendation:  Request 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron/Housing standardize window frosting throughout base housing.
Result:  The 52d CES has identified end-of-year funding to use for frosting windows in the base townhouses.

Issue:  Members who live off-base often experience communication difficulty when working with their landlord because of the language barrier. The Housing Office is not staffed to handle every off-base residents' communication with their landlords.
Recommendation:  Have the Airman & Family Readiness Center provide a list of German translation volunteers, as well as have A&FRC update the Newcomer's website to include off-base living info.
Result: The Host Nation Council, which has a booth available at the Saber Conference Center/Kuhl Beanz, is available to provide translation assistance. The Host Nation booth is manned on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also, the A&FRC does include information in the sponsorship packet regarding off-base living, such as obtaining yellow bags, trash disposal, etc. Housing is also wiling to assist members as needed. A final resource is Military One Source, which offers free, written translation for military members and their families.

Issue:  Emergency information is not distributed to non-military, so spouses and dependents don't know what to do when a siren goes off in their local neighborhoods or on base, unless specific instructions are spoken through the loud speaker. 
Recommendation:  Post Emergency Procedure Frequently Asked Questions on the official Wing website or Facebook, as well as have A&FRC and Housing include information in their welcome/info packets. Military members should also add spouse's cell numbers to the AtHoc.
Result:  Members who live off base are encouraged to engage with their village's "Rathaus" or town hall for specifics about emergency information where they live. For those who live on base and for general information about base emergency procedures, the 52d Fighter Wing Emergency Management Office provides information during Newcomers' orientation and regularly conducts radio segments on American Forces Network and sets up booths at the Base Exchange twice a year - once in April for National Prepare-A-Thon and again in September for National Preparedness month. As far as the AtHoc, non-military personnel cannot be directed to put their information in that system. 

Caring for People Forum

Issue: There is a continuous need for volunteer participation to enhance youth sports and activities. How can we maintain a current pool of volunteers for youth sports?
Recommendation:  Hire contractors to fulfill coaching requirements like Smart Start, as well as add a centralized volunteer social media page for all youth sports and activities.
Result:  Because of budget constraints, a contractor can only be hired for Smart Start, not for all coaching opportunities for youth sports. However, a Facebook page for all sports activities has been launched and can be found at: Spangdahlem Youth Program Volunteer Opportunities.

Issue:  Expanded child care is needed, especially for single parents, Mil-to-Mil families and shift workers. Plus, many houses off base do not meet Family Child Care regulations, limiting those who would be interested in providing home-based child care.
Recommendation:  Re-examine overseas Family Child Care regulations to fulfill base extended child care hours for non-conventional work hours.
Result:  Spangdahlem plans to elevate this issue to see if guidelines for FCC homes can be modified for overseas bases so that more people can meet the requirements for legally providing child care in their homes.

Caring for People Forum 2016

Issue:  Airmen who live in the dorms need more flexibility and control of how their Basic Allowance for Subsistence is spent in order to meet dietary, nutritional and fitness needs.
Recommendation:  Modify Air Force Instruction to make BAS for all Airmen.
Result:  BAS and how it is issued does not fall under AF Food Services. However, if the Dining Facility is not providing what Airmen would like to see, the DFAC has some flexibility in what they serve, as long as items are available from their distributor and the requests are within the standards they are required to meet. If there are suggestions for the Dining Facility, Airmen can provide constructive feedback to the staff any time. There are comment cards available, or they can speak to any one of the employees.  The Dining Facility also attends the Rising Four meetings once a quarter to solicit input from the Airmen.

Issue:  Sick call is not available for the routine cold and flu. Instead, Airmen must make an appointment; Airmen need to be able to have access to care when symptoms arise.
Recommendation:  Implement sick call hours for the routine cold, flu, etc.
Result:  The 52d Fighter Wing does not have sick call because same day appointments are available for active-duty Airmen.

Caring for People Forum

Issue:  There is a need to increase nutritional awareness and obtain more constructive feedback from customers about the Dining Facility, commissary and restaurant offerings on base.
Recommendation:  Provide briefs about available Health Promotion services at Newcomer's Orientation and First-Term Airman's Center. Post a link to the Interactive Customer Evaluation system, as well as the DFAC menu to the wing website. Also, provide food allergen labeling at the Dining Facility and other on-base restaurants.
Result:  Health Promotions has integrated into "Eifel Pride," which is a post-FTAC class for new Airmen, and provides a brief that focuses on nutrition label reading, sugar, healthy eating in the DFAC and dietary supplements. The food labeling initiative at the Eifel Grind has received good feedback. Other recommendations for this issue are still being explored.

Issue:  Because AF training for Physical Training Leaders changed, there is a need to strengthen Sabers through PTL training improvement and involvement.
Recommendation:  Increase communication between Unit Fitness Program Managers and PTLs and members on medical waivers; provide more specific injury prevention info after discharge from a medical waiver; have squadrons partner for unit PT sessions and initiate more fun runs.
Result:  Health Promotions is working with Physical Therapy in hosting a monthly running clinic the first Friday of every month. Health Promotions is also consulting with the 52d Force Support Squadron to build a wing-wide Fitness Improvement Program for members who need the extra structured workout time. In the future, they also hope to bring back a Master PTL class to give PTLs further hands-on training on how to lead effective workouts. Because every unit is different, PTLs are encouraged to promote ideas for collaboration through their chain of command. The Fitness Center does provide and publicize frequent fun runs. 

Caring for People Forum

Issue:  Strengthen college and career readiness for Spangdahlem students. 
Recommendation:  Hire two fulltime academic counselors, as well as a dedicated virtual proctor to expand virtual options, weight honor courses as they are in the U.S., and provide a designated resource guide for parents, to include programs, scholarships, websites, testing prep.
Result:  The Department of Defense Education Activity has guidance on staffing, and the high school does not meet the requirements for an additional counselor. As far as weighting of honor courses, there is not a standard across the United States on how these classes are evaluated. Plus, the high school curriculum is governed by DoDEA and how classes are weighted cannot be changed locally. However, the high school has boosted after school programs and parent information for college prep. Additional resources include: the Military Child Education Coalition -

Issue:  Need to enhance communication between school, parents and leadership.
Recommendation:  Create an app that works with Gradespeed for notifications, as well as provide a guide to address communication between teachers and parents that will include expectations and standards. Also, more personal interaction instead of only electronic would be helpful.
Result: Gradespeed is a commercial product used by the Department of Defense Education Activity, and apps already exist. (Editor's note: the mention of this product or its app does not constitute endorsement by the 52nd Fighter Wing, the United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense of the external Web site, or the information, products, or services contained therein.)
Most schools have daily newsletters and all schools have a School Advisory Committee. Principals have said they will focus more on personal phone calls and interaction. 

Caring for People Forum 2016

Issue:  The current sponsorship program does not incorporate spouses. Thus, there is a challenge with base information flow from active-duty service members to spouses.
Recommendation:  Incorporate spouses into the current sponsorship program within the unit.
Result: Training for key spouses, and other dependents interested in the key spouse program, is currently available at the A&FRC and is encouraged by commanders.

Issue:  Spangdahlem needs a one-stop information source for the Spangdahlem community. Currently, there is no single access point to official information, which leads to misinformation and confusion.
Recommendation:  Propose combining Heart to Heart and Helping Agency links on the official Wing website to a single link called "Spang 411." Site may include IDS calendar, Blue Book Info, and official web and Facebook pages.
Result:  Work is being done to combine information and make it more user-friendly on the website.