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North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs Office
BISMARCK, N.D. -
North Dakota National Guard volunteer was among 117 delegates — and only nine National Guard representatives — selected to attend the Army Family Action Plan World Wide Conference.
Kathy Benson, of Wolford, N.D., spent last week in Alexandria, Va., working on issues relevant to the Army Community: Soldiers, families, retirees, Department of the Army civilians and employers.
“Kathy has attended this conference in the past and is highly regarded as a representative,” said Rob Keller, Family Program Office director for the North Dakota National Guard. “She represents not only North Dakota but the entire National Guard on issues relevant to the families of National Guard members.”
This was Benson’s fourth year of participating in the AFAP Conference, having gone in 2003, 2006 and 2007.
At this year’s conference, Benson and other delegates reviewed 67 issues of interest to the Army Community. Each of eight subject-specific workgroups sent two issues forward. For Benson, whose group focused on family support, the issues chosen to advance included “Collaborative Community Support of Severely Wounded, Injured and Ill Soldiers and their families.”
“This issue was submitted because of a problem of coordinating the good wishes of a community wanting to do the most for a returning Army Wounded Warrior and not having awareness of those Soldiers and families,” Benson said. “It was a combination of security, privacy and personal dignity. I feel this issue can impact any returning service member to home in North Dakota, due to the logistics of access to rural health facilities and the sometimes overwhelming kindness of community neighbors.”
The second issue Benson’s group advanced was “Availability of Respite Care for Primary Caregivers of Severely Wounded, Injured and Ill Soldiers.”
“This is an issue for anyone in North Dakota recovering from an accident or stroke and living in a rural area,” Benson said. “It has greater impact on the young, single Soldier who is now dependent on his or her parents for all daily living activities.”
The next step for all 16 issues will be review at the General Officers Steering Committee meeting this summer. In the 25 years since the AFAP conference formed to identify and prioritize issues to improve the standard of living in the Army, 633 issues have been identified. The group drove 107 legislative changes, 154 Army policy and regulatory changes and improved 173 programs and services. While Army focused, nearly two-thirds of these issues impacted all branches of service.
“It was a very challenging week, but the results are enormous — a truly rewarding sense of accomplishment to see things ‘get done’ and be part of it,” Benson said.
Benson’s husband, Master Sgt. Dean Benson, serves in the North Dakota Army National Guard. She became involved with volunteering for the Guard Family Programs in 1986. She has been the co-chairperson for the Cando-based and Engineer Brigade Family Readiness Groups, leader of the Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, served on the Family Executive Committee and currently is a volunteer at large. She also remains active in military organizations, belonging to the York post of the American Legion Auxiliary and the VFW Auxiliary in Devils Lake