“Provide Soldiers, Civilians and their Families with a quality of life commensurate with the quality of their service.” – Installation Management Command Mission Statement
“Quality of Life”…What’s the first thing you think of? For most, it’s the comforts of home in the States brought here to Schweinfurt. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But one person’s idea of quality of life, or QOL, is different from the next. So how do we try to meet your expectations? Allow me to explain.
Garrisons exist to do three essential things: 1. Ensure the life, health, and safety for our people, 2. Support and sustain mission commanders and units in preparing for, deploying to, and redeploying from combat, and 3. Provide for quality of life. The first two are relatively easy to identify and measure. The third one however, Quality of Life, is more difficult to identify and measure and more difficult and complex to execute. Let me explain.
Several years ago, Army senior leaders developed standards of service delivery to serve as a baseline across all garrisons. Within IMCOM, we refer to these standards as our Common Levels of Service, or CLS. From a mission viewpoint, the CLS is equivalent to the garrison’s Mission Essential Tasks. It lays the foundation for what is to be done at every garrison, from providing a fire department to recreational facilities like the gyms.
The Army CLS outlines what a garrison needs to provide. But it’s your expectations that guide us on which CLS to focus on and which ones can afford to be delivered at lower levels. So, for example, the CLS states that a garrison needs to provide a mail room to deliver mail. How well we provide that service can be determined by you. In the past, your expectations influenced how we resourced the mail room. This was made evident when—with the help of Soldiers from our tenant units—USAG Schweinfurt expanded mail room hours during the holiday season. The CLS doesn’t require that. Rather, expanded mail room hours were important to you, so we expanded them to meet expectations. Expectations…It’s the driving force behind your QOL.
But how do we know what your expectations are, and whether or not we’re hitting the mark?
First, we have our ears low to the ground. LTC Runey, the Garrison Commander, is continually speaking with and listening to all the unit commanders—from Brigade down to Company level—to hear what the current issues are and to get feedback on our service delivery from both a unit and individual perspective. At Schweinfurt, all unit commanders actively and positively engage as both customers and partners with the garrison to ensure service delivery and QOL for their Soldiers and Families is the best that it can be.
The second and the most important method of identifying your expectations is through our community forums, as well as virtually through social media and our web presence. We have good picture of what is important by listening to the voice of our community in Town Halls, Facebook, I.C.E, FRG meetings, Community Synch meetings, Army Family Action Plan, and localized satisfaction surveys. The top priorities of our community are what you would expect them to be: safety, security, housing, health care, access to services, good schools, reliable transportation, and availability of recreation. The difference between community members is not WHAT services are provided, but HOW or HOW MUCH they are.
The “How” or “How Much” part of service delivery is the critical element that has changed the most over the last 24 months and will undergo the most change between now and October of 2014. In the new era of shared sacrifice as our new fiscal realities become more widespread, it is inevitable that the surge in personnel and funding within the Army—from ten years ago to the future—will return to lower levels.
Here at Schweinfurt, through exceptional stewardship by our staff, we are currently operating the garrison at pre-9/11 funding levels while delivering much of the same services. As we move toward closure, we will continue to see decreased overall funding. Unless augmented by other resources, this means that our lower budget resources will be focused on key and essential programs and services (as defined in the CLS). Consequently, some services will be modified or cease altogether.
This is where each individual in the community can make a difference. You can positively affect the problem of “how” and “how much.” Together, as a community, you provide that extra resource that will sustain or improve our QOL longer and better than anything money could provide.
One thing that sets USAG Schweinfurt apart from other garrisons is the exceptional sense of community spirit found here. We have found that many people in our community equate a positive sense of “community spirit” with a high standard of quality of life. Interesting. A sense of community drives up QOL, even more so than any service we provide. This ever-strengthening development of community spirit and engagement is what meets, sustains, and improves our emotional well-being needs associated with enjoying a good quality of life. It is the cornerstone of our resiliency as a garrison.
Here’s the takeaway: The Army standards will not change, the fiscal reality facing the DoD and our Army will not change. The only thing that can change is whether we, as individuals—as a community—are committed to own a part of it. As our combat and support units transition, and our community moves toward closure, it is our shared sense of community, our shared sense of ownership in our own QOL, which will positively shape our future. Be engaged as a leader in your community. Own your life. Attend community forums, volunteer to help your neighbors, watch and support your fellow Soldiers, patronize your on post facilities and businesses, and most of all—be a great Army citizen in our Schweinfurt home.