Covenant Delivers for Benelux
June 6, 2008
CHIAfE+VRES, Belgium - When senior leaders worldwide began signing the Army Family Covenant late last year, they pledged an increase in the support of Soldiers' families.
Moreover, when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren signed the Covenant in October, he stressed that taking care of families is a military readiness issue.
"The health of our all-volunteer force, our Soldier-volunteers, our family-volunteers, depends on the health of the family," Geren said. "The readiness of our all-volunteer force depends on the health of the families."
"I can assure you," he added, "that leadership understands the important contribution each and every [family] makes. We need to make sure we step up and provide the support families need - so the Army Family stays healthy and ready."
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., an initial covenant co-signer also, added that while Soldiers may be the strength of our nation, their strength is in their families.
In total, the covenant infused $1.4 billion this fiscal year to improve the quality of life for Army Families worldwide, such as those in the Benelux area.
And raising the quality of life for Benelux Soldiers and family members has also raised the quality of service provided by USAG Benelux Army Community Service.
The ACS recently went through an Installation Management Command-Europe accreditation process, an endorsement it didn't earn in April 2007, as the organization had problems delivering every ACS program to the community.
"Last year, we didn't have strong programs in certain areas," said USAG Benelux Army Community Services Director Vicki Hamlin.
Consequently, ACS's ongoing priority here is hiring, training and maintaining professional staff in 13 service areas to support Army Families. As for the entire Benelux area - which includes Brussels and Schinnen garrisons - such actions in the past were difficult as a limited number of staff were authorized at each installation. With the Army Family Covenant, each garrison received eight new staff authorizations.
A sign that the Covenant is building success in the three USAG Benelux communities: ACS has met all required standards in delivering essential services and support to the Soldiers and their Families living in a seven-nation footprint.
From a long-term perspective, USAG Benelux is positioning itself to provide enhanced joint-service support to all servicemembers stationed in that footprint. Plus, Covenant dollars are helping set the ACS standard for looking outside the "gates" to support families who live in remote or geographically separated areas, including in the United Kingdom, France, Norway, Spain and Poland.
Furthermore, the Covenant is funding common levels of support to ensure standards are being met at smaller garrisons, which traditionally do not generate enough non-appropriated funds to pay for some programs enjoyed by larger installations.
Besides USAG Benelux proper, Covenant support can be felt throughout other Benelux installations.
At ChiAfA..vres Garrison, ACS increased its staff size from seven to 11 members.
Covenant dollars helped in establishing a Mobilization and Deployment Program to support units and families undergoing any state of deployment.
Covenant dollars established the Soldier and Family Assistance Center to support the Warrior in Transition Unit and Warriors in Transition.
Barracks space has been renovated in the Single Servicemembers Quarters to support SFAC and WTU programs.
Along with that, Army Family Covenant dollars has helped USAG Benelux and ChiAfA..vres Garrison provide additional WTU and SFAC services, and a Warrior Lounge was created in the ACS.
Additionally, Family Advocacy is a direct benefactor of the Army Family Covenant as a Sexual Assault/Family Response coordinator was contracted; and a hotline offers around-the-clock access to Victim Advocacy services, shelter care and sexual assault and domestic violence counseling.
In support of the Army Family Covenant, ACS held a Kids Day at the Community Activity Center on ChiAfA..vres Air Base as an outreach tool to parents and youth while simultaneously bringing awareness to the Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Twenty-two agencies participated in providing educational booths and games and activities for parents and their children.
Since January, American Family Team Building has increased its volunteer staff from two to 10 instructors including four master trainers.
At USAG Brussels, CYS is spending Covenant dollars to lease two vans to transport kids to and from activities and school, along with special field trips - such as EuroDisney.
Covenant money is being spent there to support a contract for needed host nation child care, increasing what is available to families there.
The garrison is looking to fund text books for homework assistance; computer lab programs to provide education support; and enhanced after-school services.
And covenant dollars are helping family budgets go further as CYS registration has increased after sign-up fees were eliminated.
With additional Covenant funding, USAG Schinnen hired a Mobilization and Deployment program manager, Family Advocacy Program specialist, Sexual Abuse Response coordinator, an Exceptional Family Member program manager, along with managers for its Army Family Team Building and Army Family Action Plan programs.
Other Army Family Covenant success can be felt in the core of various support programs.
For example, the Covenant:
*funded child care for Family Readiness Group activities;
*waived CYS registration fee waiver for servicemembers, as 244 youth were provided free registration that saved families $4,400;
*assisted a monthly support group at AFNorth International School under the Hearts Apart and Hearts Apart Jr., programs.
A Short-Term Alternate Child Care site is in the process of being established for members of a transportation detachment and other U.S. agencies in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Some of the items already purchased include arts and crafts materials, sports supplies, books and games.
Covenant funding has allowed the garrison to acquire bus services for shuttling youth from school to Youth Services, sports practice and SKIES classes. And free fan busses have transported parents to Department of Defense Dependent Schools sporting events in Germany, directly supporting youth activities.
Covenant dollars in Schinnen have funded education outreach for Family Advocacy and Sexual Assault Awareness programs, and case management services are provided to families experiencing hardships due to domestic abuse.
Money from the Army Family Covenant has helped streamline services for families needing Exceptional Family Member Program services or respite care.
Additionally, Schinnen has invested Covenant dollars in community outreach classes, workshops and events for its Army Family Action Plan and Army Family Team Building programs.
According to Joanne Hernandez, USAG Schinnen Morale, Welfare and Recreation director, other direct or indirect Army Family Covenant benefits this year included the ability to complete Family Advocacy program specialized training and development; funded necessary program materials; and allowed ACS to hold health classes.
With each Covenant signing, a pledge was made. That promise is being kept.