By Ms. Jennifer M Caprioli (IMCOM)January 25, 2010
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- It's been more two years since Gen. George Casey,Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, signed the Army Family Covenant, and Army leadership is now focusing more on what the Covenant means to their installation, rather than what it means to the Army overall.
"It is hard for anyone to define [the Army Family Covenant] because every post is different and every need is different," explains Col. Timothy Faulkner, garrison commander.
"What we need to do is explain what it means to Fort Huachuca and what does it mean to me, at Huachuca'" The Army Family Covenant was designed as a commitment to improving Family readiness through the standardization and funding of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs and services.
Installations are given a certain amount of money to spend on programs, and leaders are given parameters on what programs qualify. Faulkner describes the Army Family Covenant as a "fenced program," meaning that the money they're provided does not compete with other funded projects such as the construction on new roads or buildings.
"The Covenant is to protect Family Programs and Services," he adds. "We took a look at what we could do here that would be in line with Army Family Covenant programs, based on customer feedback," explains Dennis Maruska, director of FMWR.
They've implemented Army-wide initiatives such as eliminating the registration fee for the Child, Youth and School Services program, but certain programs at Fort Huachuca, such as Parent University, have gone "above and beyond."
Parent University, which is unique to the installation, teaches parenting skills to Soldiers and spouses. Faulkner describes the program as "what you need to know about being a parent, and how to be a parent."
Classes are offered at night. Some topics include helping parents understand what their children should be learning at certain ages and when conceptual things should be happening with the child, such as when they should start reading.
Another initiative implemented under the Army Family Covenant is the use of the youth activities buses. Faulkner explains FMWR purchased five buses to transport children from the School Age Services to the School Services Programs, which eliminates parents leaving work in the middle of the day when their children are out of school to pick them up and drop them off at the School Services Programs.
"It's a seamless transition because when mom and dad get off work they go straight to the after school services and pick up their child," Faulkner explains.
Maruska notes that FMWR also offers free youth sports participation and School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills classes to children of deployed Soldiers and Warrior Transition Unit Soldiers.
There are other benefits for Families of deployed Soldiers and WTU Soldiers and their Families, such as free or reduced fees for MWR facilities and programs, which fall under Family Covenant, Faulkner adds.
The Family Friendly Fitness Center is a facility designated for spouses and their children so they can work out.
Maruska explains that while parents are working out, they have a visual of their child playing in an adjacent, safe area equipped with children's furnishings, toys and televisions.
The Deployed Soldiers Program also offers up to 16 hours of free child care per child per month to spouses of deployed Soldiers, which allows the parent to run errands such as grocery shopping.
Under the Army Family Covenant at Fort Huachuca, the FMWR hosts events such as free concerts and special programs, including the Month of the Military Child celebration, which Maruska says they plan on holding again this year in April.
Faulkner notes they are doing their best to tailor programs to what Fort Huachuca's Families need, but the biggest challenge leaders face is getting the word out about the different services that fall under the Army Family Covenant.
"We target the leaders who have close contact with the Soldiers such as captains, lieutenants, first sergeants, sergeants first class. Those are the [people] you want armed, because if you can get the leadership armed then they know where the outlet is to get those services," he explains.
He notes that the Army is looking at how they get the word out because "that's probably the hardest thing."
Faulkner says one of the ultimate goals of the Army Family Covenant is to improve the quality of service the Army delivers.
Maruska notes future plans for 2010 include special events such as concerts, festivals and rodeos.
"It's very important when you look at the Family Covenant to have those services available and hire people with the right skills to make sure we offer family-oriented services," Faulkner adds.
"It's important that support network is here for the families," Faulkner says.
"It's hard enough raising a family on your own, but at least we offer that support network."