By Rob Schuette, Fort McCoy Public Affairs OfficeJuly 7, 2008
Fort McCoy formalized its partnership with Tomah and Sparta as a written agreement when representatives of the three communities signed the Army Community Covenant at McCoy's July 2.
Mayors John Sund of Sparta, Wis., and Ed Thompson of Tomah, Wis., represented their cities at the ceremony. Fort McCoy Senior Mission Commander Maj. Gen. James R. Sholar, Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser and Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew K. Dubois completed the members of the official party and signed the covenant on behalf of Fort McCoy.
The Fort McCoy Child and Youth Services program also brought along youth to witness and to show family member support for the ceremony.
Sund said the city of Sparta appreciates the relationship between Sparta and Fort McCoy.
"The city of Sparta is, as it always has been, a staunch supporter of Fort McCoy and the men and women of the armed services at Fort McCoy and to their families," he said. "The city of Sparta welcomes all the Soldiers and their families to partake of the recreational facilities of the city. Our schools are open to all families. Our employees welcome those seeking work. Our churches welcome visitors and new members."
The city of Sparta appreciates all that Fort McCoy has to offer and will continue to support Fort McCoy, its personnel and their families with open arms, Sund said.
Thompson said he was truly excited and the covenant was a great thing for Fort McCoy and the cities of Tomah and Sparta.
"It's been an honor for me," he said. "I'm excited about this covenant. Anything we can do in Tomah to help Fort McCoy to show off our city ... I really hope we can make this covenant bigger and better than it's ever been."
Thompson also noted that personnel at Fort McCoy are welcome to come to Tomah to visit and use their businesses and services.
Chesser thanked everyone for taking time out of their busy schedules to help recognize the importance of the partnership between the local communities and Fort McCoy.
"The Army Community Covenant initiative is designed to draw attention to these critical partnerships," he said. "Army installations and the supporting communities work together to improve the quality of life for the Soldiers, their families and the civilian work force, as well as, the communities as a whole."
The Army Family Covenant, which was signed in November by the installation leadership and its Soldiers recognizes that although Soldiers are the strength of the nation, they derive their strength from the family unit. The Army Community Covenant recognizes that the strength of the family emanates, in large part, from the support of the local communities.
"The Army Community Covenant is a chance for Fort McCoy to recognize the ties and bonds it has with the communities of Sparta and Tomah," he said. "These communities, for the past 99 years, supported the installation, as it has grown from a remote camp back in 1909 to the major Army installation it is today."
Both communities have provided great support over the years. Chesser said examples have ranged from Tomah's 801 Woodridge military family housing to Sparta being home to a large portion of the installation's work force.
Both communities have steadfastly supported Fort McCoy by inviting the installation's personnel into their communities, often providing servicemembers with free or reduced costs to attend their events or use their businesses.
Chesser said Fort McCoy has reciprocated in kind by allowing members of the local communities to use Pine View Recreation Area and Whitetail Ridge Ski Area facilities and helping those facilities generate sufficient revenue to remain open and support the members of the Fort McCoy community.
The communities supported a public/private initiative to build a recreational lodging facility, family activity center and storage facility on the post. Chesser said after this project is completed it will help support the quality of life at Fort McCoy.
"In conclusion, I will pledge Fort McCoy will, as it has for the past (almost) 100 years, be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities -- communities that have steadfastly supported Fort McCoy throughout the years," he said. "I look forward to working together with the leaders on issues that will benefit our Soldiers, their families, our civilian work force and the local community."
Sholar thanked everyone in attendance for their support.
"We're a community-based Army," he said. "We would never want to separate ourselves from that. We want to capitalize on that. And the community covenant we are going to sign ... is a reflection of the bond between this great, old post, which will be 100 years old next year, and the two great surrounding communities of Sparta and Tomah."
The personnel here today are laying the groundwork for the next 100 years. "We should never underestimate or diminish the importance of what we do," he said.
The relationship is much larger than the economic piece, he said. It's about quality of life for permanently assigned Soldiers and their families. It's also about quality of life for the Soldiers and their families who pass through the installation, many of whom are on their way to dangerous places to serve.
"It's about an affair of the heart," he said. "It's about being on the same team."
"Some communities, over time, have been much less supportive than those surrounding Fort McCoy," he said. "That has not been an issue here. Again we can all be really proud of that."
The ceremony gave an opportunity to say thanks to the Soldiers and their families who are serving in a time when the United States has been at war for a long time, he said.
"The agreement has always been out there, but we're just going to put it down on paper so it will provide all of us with the importance of what we're doing," Sholar said.
Capt. Neil Hogie of Fort McCoy Headquarters Company served as the narrator for the ceremony and introduced the members of the official party as he read the covenant while they signed it.
J. Randall Robinson, director of the Installation Management Command (IMCOM) West Region, represented IMCOM at the July 2 ceremony. Sholar thanked him for attending the ceremony and for how he has acted as a champion for Fort McCoy over the years and partnered with the installation on many of the improvements that have occurred.
Robinson said he was sad that Fort McCoy transitioned from his region, effective July 1, but noted the installation will have great support from a great staff of people in its new region, the IMCOM Northeast Region.
"The people here are helping out," Robinson said. "They're great communities and it's a great partnership."
More information about the Army Community Covenant can be found at the Web site http://www/acsim.army.mi/community_covenant. The site features a list of organization and programs, which currently support Army Soldiers and their families. No federal endorsement is implied.