Army officials renew vows with Soldiers, families
December 6, 2007
FORT MONROE, Va. (TRADOC News Service, Dec. 6, 2007) -- The Secretary of the Army and Fort Monroe leaders renewed the Army's commitment to take care of families of deploying Soldiers during an Army Family Covenant (AFC) Signing Ceremony at the Community Activities Center on post, Nov. 29.
Surrounded by Soldiers, family members and civilian employees of Fort Monroe, the Honorable Pete Geren reminded the audience of the sacrifices made by military members and their families. He said top-level Army leadership listens to them and understands their struggles.
"The demographics of our Army today are different from any Army that has ever been before. Over half of our Soldiers are married. And our families include over 700,000 children. When a married Soldier deploys, he leaves behind a single-family household and all the problems that entails. When a single parent deploys, she leaves behind children in the care of others. These are stresses on the family we in the Army must recognize and we in the Army have to address.
"Army family programs predating 9/11 do not match the needs and requirements for strength (within) Army families in 2007 and 2008, especially after several deployments. The first deployment is hard. The second one is harder, and the third one is harder still.
"Our Army leadership recognizes the need for strength during this trying time for our nation," the Secretary said.
Army leaders are signing the AFC literally all over the world - wherever families are based. Along with the covenant, Geren said, the Army is doubling its monetary investment in family programs in 2008.
Although Fort Monroe has only a few deploying Soldiers, families here have already started benefiting from increased financial support, according to Army Community Services director, Eva Granville. She said the recent, positive changes in the services provided here should help illustrate the Army's commitment to its troops and their loved ones. And, she hopes Soldiers will be encouraged that while they are out of the area, their families are being looked after.
"Soldiers are being deployed in the new 15/12 (rotation) - 15 months deployed and 12 months at home. The covenant signing is a way senior leaders show they are listening to their needs. It's a way of saying we care," Granville said.
Some of the needs that were met during the past year include the Child Development Center receiving almost $250,000 in facility improvements, playground upgrades and a bus shelter. The Child and Youth Services surveillance system was upgraded and a lounge for teens was renovated.
Granville said she was able to expand the Exceptional Family Member Program to include respite care because of $24,000 provided by the Army last year. With other monies, ACS' support capability and continuity of services increased when full-time employees were added to the staff members thereby reducing the reliance on volunteers. ACS also expanded support to Family Readiness Groups by providing FRG leader and liaison training.
"Do I think it's important' Oh yeah, boy it is. The Army is reaffirming its commitment to Soldiers and family members.
"We're doing the work already, but it's valuable because it's saying, we listen to you - the families and Soldiers - to see what is actually important," Granville said.
Geren alluded to the flexibility of services provided to Army families and said care can be tailored to an individual family's needs.
"We will continue to add resources. We will learn as we go, too. We will learn what type of programs best meet the needs of the families under different circumstances. If it's more of a need to support child care, than that's the area we will emphasize. If we need to provide support for education or more spousal job opportunities - these can be just as important - we will emphasize them. It's going to be driven by each family and what the needs are.
Aside from the Vietnam and Revolutionary Wars, Geren said, the seven-year conflict in Afghanistan and almost five-year fight in Iraq are the longest battles in America's history. He emphasized the fact that these are the largest conflicts the U.S. has ever fought with an all-volunteer force. And, Geren sees more individuals besides Soldiers answering the call to duty.
"The all-volunteer force is the Soldier, the husband, the wife, the child.
"Today, we have 300 million Americans. We have a million men and women wearing the uniform. These Army families are carrying a burden not just for 300 million Americans, but for much of the free world. They are fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and several wars around the world," Geren said.
He went on to quote the words of Sir Winston Churchhill spoken in August 1940: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," to bolster Soldiers and family members attending the ceremony.
"Thank you," Geren said, "for being those few standing up for America and standing up for freedom around the world."