YAKIMA, Wash. (Army News Service, Nov. 20, 2008) -- A day after Veterans Day, Yakima Valley community leaders, Army officials from the Yakima Training Center and service members from other military services signed the Army Community Covenant at the Pacific Northwest University of Health Science.

The ACC is a formal recognition of the relationship between Soldiers, their families and the communities surrounding the Army training center. This covenant acts as a public commitment in continuing support for service members. In turn, service members and their families develop and nurture an improved quality of life in their community by building a stronger community.

"When we sign this covenant probably more than anything else, it's to say thank you. Thank you so much for being a full partner in the lives of the men and woman that do so much who are willing to give it all for their country like so many others have done," said Jack Creighton, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army and keynote speaker at the ACC.

Creighton said military family members are just as much a volunteer in the Army as Soldiers are. Over half of Soldiers are married, making over 500,000 spouses and over 700,000 children. When a Soldier deploys they leave a single parent behind or children in the care of others. They leave a household with all the social dynamics to manage, so that is why community support is important for these families.

Angela Jines, a speaker at the ACC ceremony and a 15-year military spouse with a son, has a husband who deployed about three-and-a-half years ago. Before she shared her deployment experiences, Jines asked everyone in attendance to write their first and last name with their non-dominate hand, and then she asked what it felt like.

Weird, awkward and sloppy were three answers to her question.

"I considered myself a very strong woman. All those things you felt with writing with your non-dominate hand, I had those feelings when my husband deployed," Jines said. "I thought this was going to be a breeze and everything was going to all click together."

Jines shared that her son, then in fifth grade, sought attention by becoming the class clown. Jines said he was angry that his dad was gone. She also experienced two major appliances breaking down in a single day and, as she puts it, a psychotic dog that started using the entire house as its personal toilet.

Without all the community support systems in place, Jines said her husband's absence would have been extremely difficult for her and her son to handle.

"We are trying to inculcate (the ACC) as part of the culture. We not only want the community to support the Soldier, but the Soldier to support the community," said Jim Reddick, deputy to the garrison commander of the Yakima Training Center.

Reddick gave credit to Army Reserve Ambassador Mary Miller for the ACC coming to Yakima.

Yakima became the second community in Washington to join the ACC program; the first was Fort Lewis. The first wide ACC was signed in Columbus, Ga. by the Fort Benning community on April 17, 2008.

Yakima Training Center has 550 civilian and military employees with no post housing. The Training Center is one of Yakima County's top 10 employers.

(Sgt. 1st Class Chris Farley writes for 88th RRC Public Affairs Office)