By Kristin Bradley, USAG Hohenfels Public AffairsJuly 21, 2008
HOHENFELS, Germany - "If the Army wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one" is an outdated maxim rarely heard in today's military.
Instead, the Army is working harder than ever to recognize the importance of a family's welfare to the wellbeing of Soldiers. Accordingly, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Soldiers and families are seeing the proof of this effort through the Army Family Covenant.
Late last year, senior Army leaders signed covenants at installations worldwide, pledging a stronger commitment to military families. As part of the covenant, the Army has committed $40 billion over the next six years to support family programs and quality-of-life initiatives.
With the U.S. military well into its seventh year of operations in Afghanistan - and fighting its longest war with an all-volunteer force since the American Revolution - Army leadership recognized that families were being pushed to the limit and vowed to make every resource possible available to them.
"It was immediately clear to us that the families were the most stretched, and as a result, the most stressed part of the force, and that what we were asking those families was a quantum different than anything I expected we would ask," Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army, said last October at a covenant signing at Fort Knox, Ky.
"The health of our all-volunteer force, our Soldier-volunteers, our family-volunteers, depends on the health of the family," said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren at the same signing. "The readiness of our all-volunteer force depends on the health of the families."
Families here are seeing proof of the covenant in many ways, most visibly in changes and additions at Army Community Service and Child and Youth Services.
Eva Garrett, acting garrison ACS director, said her organizations has been able to allocate eight new fulltime positions - including a program assistant, outreach coordinator, marketing specialist, information and referral specialist, and family advocacy program specialist.
While some of the positions were filled as contract slots prior to the covenant, hiring fulltime employees will now allow ACS to provide more continuity of services, said Garrett.
For example, ACS has expanded available classes, including night and weekend offerings. They have been able to purchase additional items, such as new books for the English as a Second Language program; books and other materials to help Soldiers and families cope with deployment; and more Lending Closet items for new arrivals.
And, for the first time, a family readiness group and spouse leadership conference is being scheduled.
As a result, Garrett said she is seeing an increase in people using ACS services.
The Exceptional Family Member Program at ACS is also benefitting from the covenant, as it now has a support group for parents of children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, with their most recent outing being a trip to the Nuremberg Zoo.
But ACS is not the only beneficiary of the covenant. Thanks to the additional funding, Child and Youth Services registration is now free.
According to Moral, Welfare, and Recreation officials, all families are eligible for free childcare during FRG meetings and mandatory deployment meetings. Children of deployed parents receive 16 hours of free respite care - per child per month - starting 30 days before a deployment and ending 60 days after redeployment. Beyond the free allotted hours, care is just $2 per hour.
And when a family is preparing for a temporary or permanent change of station or temporary duty, children can receive up to two free instructional courses offered through the CYS School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills program, and one free CYS individual or team sport. Additionally, children whose parents are deployed receive up to four free SKIES classes and two sports.
Plus children of wounded Soldiers receive many of the same benefits of deployed Soldiers, as well as unlimited free hourly care for medical appointments.
Overall, the Army Family Covenant was designed to meet the needs of Soldiers and families. "That's what we're here for," said Garrett. "Whether it is coming in early, late, on evenings or weekends, it just makes sense. We are asking military families to sacrifice so much. It's the right thing to do."