WASHINGTON --- Partnerships between the Army and communities outside its installations are important for several reasons, said Ryan D. McCarthy.

Under Secretary of the Army McCarthy was keynote speaker at the Army Community Partnership Recognition Ceremony Dec. 4, at the Pentagon, where seven installations were recognized.

The cultural divide between the Army and the nation is the widest it has ever been, he said, meaning that the percentage of Americans who have served or are currently serving is very small. "Trust by the American people is the foundation of our profession. Every day we are in the community strengthens it, particularly through partnerships."

Partnerships also have a real and meaningful relationship with readiness, he said; through improved mission training, cost efficiency, expanded capabilities, greater efficiencies and improved community relationships.

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, assistant chief of staff for Installation Management, said community partners contribute substantially to the readiness of the Army through cost avoidance and providing services to Soldiers and their families.

These relationships are long-term and are built on shared trust and commitment, she added.

"There is absolutely no way we can do what we do inside our installations without the full support and partnership of our community leaders, along with industry and academia outside our gates," Bingham concluded.

Jordan Gillis, acting assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said partnerships are important to the Army because they are a way to more efficiently utilize resources, provide new ideas and solve problems.

Mahlon Apgar IV, a former assistant secretary of the Army for IEE, said partnerships are valuable in three ways: "First, partnerships are unique because it is government and community businesses contributing within a single structure. Second, innovation is the instrument to bring these partnerships together. Third, partnerships are bipartisan, pulling all of the participants together to solve local problems."

During his service with the Army, Apgar helped establish the Army's Residential Communities Initiative, a public-private partnership that privatized housing on installations.

Intergovernmental service agreements, or IGSA, are a vital component of conserving resources and infrastructure and increasing efficiency, according to Nate Allen, a spokesman for U.S. Army Installation Management Command. IGSAs are the types of agreements used by these seven community award winners.

On average, the Army realizes a 25 percent cost reduction for installation support services provided through IGSAs with local or state government partners, he noted.

IGSAs are not contracts, they are public-public partnerships. IGSAs are not meant to replace contractors, but are a way to strengthen installations and local communities while enabling readiness in a cost-effective manner, he added.

The seven installation awardees are as follows:

FORT LEONARD WOOD

After significant flooding in late April, Fort Leonard Wood experienced "catastrophic failure of its critical water infrastructure," according to the award citation.

Over the course of 48 hours, Fort Leonard Wood had very limited capability to produce water, and was within hours of losing water pressure to the hospital and the rest of the installation, it states.

During this crisis, the city of St. Robert was unable to provide water directly to the installation from its water source because no interconnectivity between the two entities existed, according to Kent Thomas, a retired Army officer and executive director of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, the organization that later partnered with the post in getting the funding and communication linking the post and state and local community.

As a result, the state of Missouri approved a $500,000 grant and the city of St. Robert agreed to fund the remainder of the over $730,000 project to interconnect their city water system to Fort Leonard Wood. This provides reciprocating backup water supplies in case of future emergencies, Thomas said.

FORT WAINWRIGHT

Fort Wainwright, Alaska, is partnering with Fairbanks North Star Borough, the community just outside the gates of the installation.

The partnership involves integrating emergency services communications. That effort started about two years ago, and has already resulted in savings of $283,000, according to Morgan Boatman, deputy director of Emergency Services at Fort Wainwright. Emergency Services involves fire, police and paramedics.

More important than monetary savings, the effort is expected to save lives by dramatically cutting down the time it takes to get a dispatch call transferred between the installation and the city of Fairbanks, he said.

About 95 percent of the work is done, which involves installing a computer-aided dispatch system on post, and it should be fully functional by January, he added.

FORT CAMPBELL

In Kentucky, Fort Campbell's Soldier For Life -- Transition Assistance Program and Career Skills Program partnered with the local office of the American Job Center along with the Montgomery County government, which secured a Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act grant to connect over 11,000 transitioning service members with thousands of local, national and international employment agencies, according to the award.

This initiative has played a significant part in reducing the Army's unemployment compensation cost of over $500 million in fiscal year 2012 to $134 million in FY2016, per the award, which added that this benefits Army readiness and recruiting, as well as Soldiers who are separating.

FORT DEVENS

Fort Devens Reserve Forces Training Area, Massachusetts, utilizes the local community's Inmate Labor Program. The inmates maintain the ranges, facilities and training areas on the South Post Training Complex.

This has resulted in the elimination of expensive contracts, according to the award, and to boot, the inmates do a better job than the contractors did.

CAMP EDWARDS

The Massachusetts National Guard's Camp Edwards Training Site entered into six partnerships that benefit training capabilities by allowing parachute training to be conducted adjacent to the installation, facilitating the Army Air Assault Course and Pathfinder Course, providing firefighting and fire crash rescue, and installing wind turbines.

The installation partnerships are with:

--Environmental Readiness Center for Protection of Natural Resources

--Air Force Space Command's wind, energy and water restoration programs

--Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation

--U.S. Coast Guard's fire management program

--U.S. Coast Guard's airfield management program

--Army National Guard Warrior Training Center, Fort Benning

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, has a large commuting population, with over 100,000 motor vehicle trips per day. Commuters experience delays getting to and from work because of limited entry and exit points on post and Interstate 5 is congested during rush hours.

The post partnered with Pierce County to create a Transportation Demand Management Plan to reduce traffic congestion both on and off base. This plan attacks the issue of congestion through multiple programs including the GO Lewis-McChord Transit Program, bicycle share, and educational outreach.

FORT LEE

In an effort to maintain emergent care capability on Fort Lee, Virginia, and in local communities, the installation's Emergency Medical Services Division engaged the academic community for assistance.

Through this partnership, Fort Lee medics and first responders from mutual aid partners will attend a year-long course provided by Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia instructors and hosted on post.

This effort brings Fort Lee and mutual aid partners in compliance with new national standards for emergency management service providers a year ahead of the March 2019 deadline. It also helps to develop Fort Lee into a field preceptor training site for emergent care students from the medical college.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS)