WASHINGTON -- Beneath the shadow of Mount Ascension, lying in the vast expanse of Montana's wilderness, a community of Soldiers joined a staff of 10 civilians to help preserve the outdoor land many veterans use to exercise, hike and enjoy.
For nearly a decade, the Montana Army National Guard and the Prickly Pear Land Trust have combined their efforts to protect the natural tranquility of Tenmile Creek, a 26.5-mile tributary that winds southwest near Fort Harrison. The land trust's Peaks to Creeks Initiative also helps prevent construction developments from encroaching on grounds bordering the installation and potentially disrupting Soldiers training.
The Army Community Partnership Program, or ACPP, recognized members of the Montana National Guard and the land trust for their efforts in a Pentagon ceremony Wednesday, along with nine other installations and communities. The partnerships strengthen and solidify the service's ties to its surrounding neighborhoods, said Lt. Gen. Jason Evans, deputy chief of staff of the Army, G-9.
According to a recent USA Today report, Montana has the third-highest percentage of service members in its population and the large veteran community depends on fostering local partnerships.
"Our Soldiers live in the community and retire … in the community," said Col. James Hesterberg, construction facility management officer, Montana National Guard. "It's a great partnership and it's an important partnership. We sustain each other."
Hesterberg added that Fort Harrison benefits from the land trust's efforts in supporting the installation's infrastructure. The land trust's staff of 10 people, with the help of the Guard, builds hiking trails, connects public lands to private grounds, and protects stream corridors, flood plains and environmental projects of varying scale.
"We can accomplish the goals of the military installations; we can also address really important community needs," said Mary Hollow, executive director of the land trust.
For the first time the ACPP recognized a foreign partner, the South Korean city of Pyeongtaek, and Hoseo, Pyeongtaek and Namseoul Universities for their role in joining Camp Humphreys to establish community relationships to organize community events, as well as engage in programs fostering greater cultural understanding.
Pyeongtaek Vice Mayor Jong-Ho Lee along with a South Korean delegation attended the ceremony including Yoongi-Gi Baik, the director-General of the Anjung district office of Pyeongtaek city, Byeong-Bae Lee, the vice chairman of the Pyeongtaek city council.
Partnerships like those forged between the Montana Army National Guard and the land trust underscore the Army's larger effort to strengthen its bond to communities on the home front.
That relationship has become paramount in Austin, Texas, where the Army formed a new major command, Army Futures Command. The ACPP honored AFC's partnership with the University of Texas System, from which AFC rents its headquarters building, as well as the state of Texas and the host city.
AFC planted its roots deep into the community by forming relationships with university faculty to further develop research into robotics, and assured positioning, navigation and timing programs, which is alternative navigation programs to GPS.
"Our national defense strategy has stated what we all know," said Alex Beehler, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. "That the homeland is no longer a safe haven. The fence line has become the front line. And that clearly means the surrounding communities are very much integral to any Army installation, any military base, particularly the large ones."
In the southwest, less than 30 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, Fort Huachuca in Arizona earned recognition for forming four partnerships with the city of Sierra Vista, the local United Service Organization, Upper San Pedro Partnership, and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.
By aligning with the ADFFM, Fort Huachuca removed fuel from wildlands and helped conserve the habitat of the Mexican spotted owl near Army training areas.
As the population of Sierra Vista and the surrounding region near Huachuca swelled, the installation joined the Upper San Pedro Partnership to help balance delicate water distribution in the region. And the base established a USO center to provide programs for military families.
"Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista have a long history of partnering with each other in extraordinary ways," said Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. "Fort Huachuca is Sierra Vista. Sierra Vista is Fort Huachuca. And like many small towns, support across the board is extraordinary, and I know that's the same for a lot of communities around the country."
Along the East Coast, the ACPP praised community partnership efforts in New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia.
The New Jersey Guard along with Rowan and Stockton Universities created an internship program based on operational and mission readiness improvement in sustainability, facilities management and environmental programs.
New York's Fort Hamilton, located on the shores of south Brooklyn, joined nearby Poly Prep Country Day School to share use of indoor and outdoor fitness facilities for both Poly Prep students and Soldiers.
Fort Drum and New York state police combined forces to respond to critical incidents that target base personnel and property. Fort Drum and Jefferson County partnered to improve Soldier and family member support services that include emergency relief, financial readiness and relocation.
At Fort Belvoir, the installation and northern Virginia's Community Military and Federal Facility Partnership developed a cyber training and education program to establish a new cybersecurity work force.
The Fort Meade Alliance in Maryland transformed an aging 9,000 square-foot Kuhn Hall into a renovated, state-of-the art program and information hub, providing mental health, educational and family services.
On the West Coast, the Presidio of Monterey, home of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, signed an intergovernmental support agreement with the city of Monterey to provide support services for POM facilities and at Camp Robert's Army Signal Activity.
"We are such a small installation that we depend on our community partners to help us accomplish our mission," said Command Sgt. Maj. Roberto Marshall, POM garrison command sergeant major. "So it's important for us to reach out to get this community engagement to help us support our mission on the Pacific."