<b><i>In part one of a two-part series on the garrison's triumphs in 2008, commander discusses taking care of people in Hawaii </b></i>

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - As the military ohana embraces the changes to come in 2009, many see these changes as a time to reflect on the year that has passed, although, the year was not one some people will look back on fondly. Rising unemployment, home foreclosures, inflation and bankruptcy dominated many newspaper headlines.

Continued frequent deployments, increasing demands for support overseas, rising numbers of Soldiers experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the ongoing battle against the global war on terror impacted the military. Yet, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii (USAG-HI) demonstrated its commitment and dedication to serving and supporting Army families.

<b>Year of Quality of Life</b>

"In keeping with the charter laid out in the Army Family Covenant and in recognition of the tremendous sacrifices of our great Soldiers and families, the garrison designated 2008 as the "Year of Quality of Life," said Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, USAG-HI.

Taking care of Soldiers, families and Department of the Army (DA) civilians, retirees and veterans was a high priority in 2008.

The garrison team focused efforts, priorities and resources, which ensured members of our communities enjoyed first-class quality of life and achieved steady improvement on initiatives throughout the year.

In 2008, the garrison continued to provide high quality, customer-focused base support operations to all assigned, tenant, visiting activities and units, enabling the combat readiness of mission forces, while striving to achieve the utmost quality of life for Soldiers and families.
These efforts sustained and enhanced service and support to communities and tenant organizations across the gamut of functions, including public works, logistics, morale, welfare, recreation, security and information management.

Although the economy declined, the garrison successfully managed USAG-HI's $386 million budget, executing 100 percent of all allocated funds by the year end and garnered an additional $40 million from external sources.

The extra money allowed USAG-HI to fund numerous quality of life initiatives and infrastructure improvements - many of which will come to our communities in the upcoming year.

"We specifically set out to do everything we could to enhance the quality of life for our community members," Margotta said. "We placed greater emphasis on listening to the 'voice of the customer.' We set out to determine what you - the community - wanted us to improve or provide, and then we did our very best to give it to you."

Quality of life improvement initiatives were based on community feedback and included discounted golf and bowling, renovated bowling alleys, and new outdoor recreation programs, including a paintball facility.

Renovations at Fort Shafter gym, new gym equipment, expanded gym hours and free fitness classes at military fitness centers island-wide were also provided.

Additional initiatives included improvements to services and menus at the Nehelani and Hale Ikena clubs, irrigated athletic fields, new child development center play areas and equipment, Schofield Barracks Main Post Chapel renovations, and numerous other facility upgrades.

Heightened Blue Star Card services provided benefits to more than 1,000 families during the 2008 fiscal year. Enhanced marketing campaigns ensured that all eligible spouses were aware of the services.

<b>Army Family Covenant</b>

Throughout the year, several community events were conducted to enhance Soldier and family morale. Among them, military members gathered together during Schofield Barracks' Oktoberfest celebration (which provided more than 2,000 free tickets to deploying 25th Infantry Division (ID) Soldiers and their families); at the Montgomery Gentry concert (held in conjunction with the 25th ID redeployment ceremony); and at the largest Fourth of July celebration ever conducted, attended by more than 50,000 community members, which included the performing talents of Billy Ray Cyrus and the Army Community Covenant signing ceremony, by Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and other community leaders.

"Virtually everything we do in the garrison centers around achieving the goals established in the Army Family Covenant. It gives us our focus - to ensure that the quality of life we provide to our Soldiers and families is equal to the quality of their service."

<b>Continuous Improvement</b>

As commander, Margotta strives to build a culture within the garrison that is mission oriented, customer focused, flexible, and able to rapidly change to meet the constantly changing and competitive environment of installation operations.

"My goal is to leave USAG-HI, its people and facilities in better condition than I received them," said Margotta. "Focus on people first by maximizing mentoring, team-building and leader development programs."

Margotta and the garrison team worked hard to develop trust and confidence between leaders, employees and Soldiers.

"We try to recognize and reward outstanding Soldiers and employees at every opportunity," he explained, "as well as maintain a safe and secure environment for Soldiers, families and civilian employees to work, train and live."

<b>Community Initiatives</b>

The garrison implemented numerous crime prevention and community well-being initiatives, including new installation access control procedures that brought Hawaii up to DA standards.

USAG-HI also established community law enforcement community relations officers, implemented a Neighborhood Watch program, and established a comprehensive community marketing campaign designed to promote greater community involvement and awareness.

"These are all just 'little steps' in our continuing effort to make Hawaii the most requested and premier location in the Army for Solders and families to serve," said Margotta. "We won't get there overnight, but we will get there."

<i>(Editor's Note: See next week's Hawaii Army Weekly for green solutions and housing upgrades of 2008.)</i>

Page last updated Fri January 16th, 2009 at 15:16