With a platform that encourages its participants to speak their mind, the 2012 Caring for People forum, held at Chapel 2 April 5, allowed multiple Team Edwards members to voice their concerns regarding the base.
As part of the forum, CFP participants not only voiced their concerns but were encouraged to develop recommendations and forward suggestions on improving policy and support services at Edwards to senior leaders.
“This year, we wanted to see more representation from our active duty military individuals, the spouses of active duty military, Department of Defense civilians, retirees and anyone that’s a part of the Edwards community,” said Kimberly Shirley, 95th Air Base Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and CFP coordinator with the Integrated Delivery System Committee. “This [forum] is one of the ways that we can get our ideas, concerns and issues sent directly to the ear of senior leaders here on base.”
At the initial start of the CFP forum, volunteers from across the Edwards community were selected to participate in the following working focus groups: Family Support, Health and Wellness Support, Housing Support, Single Airmen Support, School Support and Special Needs Family Support.
Of those in the CFP working groups, Senior Airman Cole Cargill, 95th Medical Operations Squadron Resiliency specialist and IDS Member, was one of those who volunteered as a forum member in the Single Airman Support group who said he felt this was important to give a voice to the lower enlisted rank.
“Being a single Airman, I have an intimate understanding of the base specific difficulties that are felt prominently with the single airman limited to the base,” said Cargill. “Each one of the Airmen we were representing today are integral to the day-to-day operations of the base, so it’s important that they understand that they are appreciated, valued and heard.”
After the groups brainstormed and conducted an initial analysis on the main topics that concern the base, group members gathered in the afternoon to prioritize issues, determine top issues and prepare slides to give to the administrative staff for the day’s outbrief forum.
“Morale is infectious and this forum today provided an environment that fosters contentment and empathy so the base can become more productive,” Cargill added.
Within each of the working groups, facilitators were also assigned to guide the group in accomplishing the desired result of providing input to base leadership on what the group considered to be the main issues on base and in the Air Force in general.
“As a facilitator, it was rewarding to take part in one of the working groups,” said Lucien Fuertes, 95th Communications Squadron. “This was my second year participating in this forum because of the opportunity it allows to positively impact the base community.”
At the end of the day, the forum culminated with working groups gathering to give an outbrief presentation to base leadership, so they could vote on top issues to send up for major command consideration.
For the issues that cannot be worked at the MAJCOM-level, Shirley said those would be forwarded to the Air Force-level.
“What most new participants experienced today was something that actually started in 2009 at the Air Force-level and was established by the Air Force as a means for an installation commander to receive community feedback for review, action and resolution,” said Shirley.
According to Shirley, when the initial CFP forum was held at the AF level in 2009, Air Force leaders found that this method was a much quicker way for the base community to provide feedback to a commander on issues that concerned them on their installation.
“The IDS chair persons and Community Action Information Board executive individuals at each installation also came to the conclusion that they were able to farm out questions and concerns to the appropriate agencies more effectively,” Shirley said. “From there, those agencies were able to work the issues at the Air Force-level.”
Due to the success of the initial forum, Shirley added that Air Force leadership decided take it down to the installation level, so in 2011 they made this forum an installation event and an annual project.
“I know the system works because I personally saw it for myself in 2009 from the Single Airman Support Group I was a part of,” said Shirley. “Eventually, the forum was one way where we were able to pass on information regarding the concerns and issues of Air Force Airmen so the sponsorship program could improve. It also brought about the ability for Air Force personnel to use social media as a preferred way of passing and receiving information.”
According to Shirley, results from the 2012 CFP forum will be released as soon as all the data obtained during the forum is compiled and has been presented to all base leadership.
“We want to pass this information on to the senior leaders of the base about the issues and concerns that are most important to the Edwards community and let all our commanders and leaders know the things that we want to see changed in order to continue to making Edwards a great place to live and work,” concluded Shirley.