SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Enter through any gate at any Army installation on Oahu, drive through any Army Hawaii Family Housing (AHFH) community, and you will be greeted by colorful banners sending warm messages to returning Soldiers.

Families returning to Hawaii after a yearlong deployment will be greeted by a lot of exciting changes that have taken place at AHFH.

Nearly half of the more than 5,000 planned new homes have been built at Schofield, Aliamanu and Red Hill in the past year, and new homes are coming up at Fort Shafter and Wheeler Army Airfield.

To date, families are living in more than 2,500 new homes and on average 60 are completed each month. Major renovations are also underway to provide families with the modern amenities they desire while still retaining the character of the period the home was built.

In addition to new homes, families are enjoying new amenities like community centers with spray parks, tot lots, cafAfAs and basketball courts.

Often, more important than the home or amenities near by, is a family's desire to settle into a home before a Soldier arrives back on island.

"We understand the desire by families as well as returning Soldiers to get settled and back into daily routines, so our AHFH team is well prepared to find a home for families," said Lisa Reese, AHFH project director.

Melanie Russell, marketing manager, AHFH, advises families returning from deployment, as well as those who live off-post and would like to move on-post, to notify AHFH immediately.

"The sooner we know a family's return plans or desire to move on post, the faster we can prepare a home," Russell said. "It's our goal to make this process as easy as possible by working with families to identify a home and community that meets their lifestyle and needs."

Redeploying Soldiers and their families can be placed on the wait-list three months prior to the sponsor's return date, as long as spouses have the Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) Special Power of Attorney (SPOA). Not having the RCI SPOA will delay a family's ability to be placed on the wait-list. Some eligibility requirements are based on the family's command-sponsored family size and rank.

Russell added that families can take advantage of move-in specials on select homes, and pointed out that no other community off-post offers services specific to the needs of military families.

"Our primary goal is to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and their families, and we do this by offering unique programs and services," Russell said. "We are working with Army Community Service (ACS) to launch monthly programs in our community centers specifically geared toward supporting redeploying Soldiers, their spouses and their children."

(Editor's Note: This article ran in the Hawaii Army Weekly's redeployment insert, which was published Nov. 20. To see the entire insert, click here. The insert starts on page 14.)