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Vandenberg Airman sparks change in DoD

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When she stood in front of senior leadership Dec. 21 at Breaker's dining facility she had no idea that voicing her concern would have an effect the entire Department of Defense. 

"I was just in the right place at the right time and asked the right question," said Airman 1st Class Erica Hudson, 30th Operations Support Squadron client support administrator.
 
The question that Airman Hudson presented during an Airman's breakfast that morning was a concern with how the Child Development Center on base charged its patrons for their service.
 
"Another co-worker's rates increased due to her husband receiving combat duty pay when he deployed and I just thought it wasn't right to take money meant to support a family during war time separation," Airman Hudson said. 

"The CDC is set up as an aid and they were taking advantage of the situation," she said. 

Col. Jack Weinstein, 30th Space Wing commander, had the bases' point of contact for managing the CDC ask the question to Air Force Space Command and received the reply, "it's policy." 

Colonel Weinstein wasn't ready to accept that answer and again pressed Space Command headquarters for a better answer, who in turn asked Air Staff to provide guidance. 

At this point, Air Staff had to ask the DoD for an absolute answer. 

"Airman Hudson's question caught the attention of many high ranking positions, and they agreed that a war zone pay benefit should not be included as income, thereby increasing what families pay to send children to the CDC," said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Gordon, 30th Space Wing command chief. 

Shortly afterward, a statement was issued through the Department of Children and Youth Services providing clarification on the total family income definition used in calculating parent fees. 

According to Eliza Nesmith, Air Staff CAIB Executive Director, "There is no separarate category called 'combat pay' and the only two combat pays are hardship duty pay and imminent danger pay...so, this means that 'combat pay' is no longer included in the calculation."
 
The Vandenberg CDC views this rate change in a positive light and was happy to be able to help their patrons. 

"The family is already in hardship and if we can help by not compounding that with financial hardship, that's great," said Carolyn Yeats, Vandenberg CDC desk clerk. 

"This is a positive change," said Verna Brown, Vandenberg CDC director. "We are here to help our patrons and support them."
 
One Vandenberg Airman noticed a discrepancy, spoke up and brought about a change in policy, not just for Vandenberg Airmen but all servicemembers across the entire DoD. 

"Take initiative and just speak up, it just takes the courage to say something to bring about change," she said.