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Wolford’s Benson fills a key role with N.D. Guard

Has served as a volunteer for over 20 years

February 19, 2010
Edie Wurgler

Last month Kathy Benson of Wolford spent a week at the Army Family Action Plan World Wide Conference in Arlington, Va., working on issues of interest to the Army community.

The community is like a family, according to Kathy, and encompasses active and reserve component soldiers, retirees, civilians employed by the Army, and their families.

Kathy has been a volunteer with the Guard for over 20 years, and represented North Dakota as well as the entire National Guard at the conference, according to Rob Keller, Family Program Office Director for the N.D. Guard.

Kathy's husband, Dean, is a member of the N.D. National Guard, currently with the 141 Mobilization Enhancement Brigade in Fargo. He has been in the Guard since 1979, and served in Desert Storm with a water storage and distribution unit from Cando. He began his military service in the U.S. Navy in 1975.

The Army Family Action Plan is the Army's grassroots process to identify and examine quality-of-life issues affecting all members of the Army family and has been a part of the Army for more than 23 years.The issues that are deemed most pressing by conference delegates are passed on to senior leaders for action. The Alexandria conference reviewed a total of 82 points of discussion. Of those 82, 16 were identified as having priority and were advanced to Headquarters, Department of the Army.

Kathy was one of 96 delegates at the conference, and one of only seven Guard representatives. This is the fifth time she has participated in the conference, and each time she has been astonished by the number of problems to be resolved. At each conference work groups focus on eight specific areas of concern.

This year she served on the soldier support group. "We can only promote a certain number of ideas from the group," Kathy said, and from the many problems her group examined two were chosen to advance: 'Reserve Component Inactive Duty for Training Travel and Transportation Allowances', and 'Reduced Eligibility Age for Retirement of Reserve Component Soldiers Mobilized in Support of Overseas Contingency Operations'. Both issues are Guard related but will impact reserves in all branches of the military.

Resides northeast of Wolford

Kathy, who lives on a farm northeast of Wolford, attended her first conference in 2003 and served on the group identifying medical issues including vaccinations, funding service dogs for wounded warriors, and mental health services. They found it extremely hard to narrow the concerns down to just a few, she said. "They were all life and death issues."

She has also served in the area of family concerns, dealing with subjects such as schools, daycare, insurance, even marriage enrichment. She tries to look at each issue and evaluate how it will benefit Guard members, whether they are on active duty or living in their community. "This is the grassroots level," she said, "and we know what's working and what's not working."

Since the Army Family Action Plan began, 112 of the 651 issues advanced have resulted in legislative changes.

Because she has attended several conferences, Kathy can be an effective representative for the N. D. Guard. Volunteers have to get up to speed beforehand or they could never cover all the topics in the time allowed. "I have the experience of knowing how the process works," Kathy said. "It's a very intense week."

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