Caring for People Forum wraps up

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The 2010 Caring for People Forum concluded here April 21 with the presentation of a list of proposed initiatives from attendees focused on a range of issues affecting Airmen and their families.

Approximately 250 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen and civilians gathered for this second annual forum.

Their initiatives focused on educational support for school-age family members, and Reserve and Guard members; funding base support agencies; outreach through social media; preventative health care; post-deployment reintegration; housing; spouse communication; single Airmen issues, and Airmen and their families in the exceptional family member program.

Their initiatives go before the Air Force Community Action Information Board members this summer, said Lt. Col. Karen Terry, the forum coordinator.

The significance of the initiatives was reflected in the remarks made by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, who emphasized the importance of a word found in the forum's name.

"It's important to focus on what the word 'care' really means because it is much more than sentiment," Secretary Donley said. "It involves action.

"Concern for people is certainly positive but concern only becomes meaningful when action is taken," he said.

The secretary praised the input of forum attendees, which included family advocates, chaplains, housing specialists and medical service providers, in developing ideas to help Airmen and their families.

"To ensure we are doing all that we can for Airmen and their families, we need to build a resilient force through multiple avenues of approach," Secretary Donley said. "And this can be done in a number of areas that you've been discussing during the past couple of days."

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy reinforced this building upon success concept.

"As you come together, your energy, your thoughts, and most importantly, your suggestions on how we can improve things for our Air Force family are so important, Chief Roy said. "We are right now focused on what is next."

He assured forum attendees that their work at the forum would shape that definition.

This initiative has the support of Suzie Schwartz, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, who also spoke on the closing day of the forum.

"I love the Year of the Air Force Family, but we need to find a new name," Mrs. Schwartz said. "It needs to be continuing. It's really grown so much in one year."

Mrs. Schwartz, a former special education teacher, said she appreciated the emphasis on improving school interaction and the exceptional family member program. She said family issues are of key importance to Airmen, and noted getting spouses involved is helpful on many levels.

She credited Honey Jennings and the Hurlburt Field, Fla., spouses club with helping her transition to an Air Force life 29 years ago.

Don't overlook the spouse's network, she said. Base key spouse programs are very valuable, and fast, in sharing information.

In seeking a solution to a problem, Mrs. Schwartz encouraged people to keep pressing on despite obstacles.

"Don't take the first 'no,'" she said. Be polite but "if somebody says no, I just kind of say, 'Well maybe I can go somewhere else.'" 

Attendees Brad Quarnberg, a retired security forces and aerial port Airman and Senior Airman Hansel Orozco, a 433rd Air Wing chaplain assistant from Lackland AFB, Texas, enjoyed the opportunity to participate.

Mr. Quarnberg said he was excited about "being part of Air Force change."

"Taking care of people is awesome," he said. "That's my passion."

Airman Orozco said he appreciated how Air Force manpower and personnel officials organized the forum to listen to Airmen.

"It's good seeing them reaching out to people," Airman Orozco said. "It was really comforting to see them willing to listen."

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, from Texas, who attended the forum's out-brief, expressed the importance of caring for Airmen and their families.

"I believe it is vital to provide the necessary resources for the whole Air Force, both men and women; resources for the battlefield and for them to live a better life," said Congresswoman Lee, who serves on the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Homeland Security. The Caring for People Forum was "smart, timely and very positive" for the Air Force family.