BRUNSSUM, Netherlands - Tri-border residents and delegates witnessed a recommitment by Army leaders to the Army Family Covenant at a Signing Ceremony during the USAG Schinnen's annual Army Family Action Plan Conference held in the JFC Conference Center here Feb. 4.

The USAG Schinnen Army Community Service, which organized the AFAP Conference, was recently recognized by the Department of the Army with an Award of Excellence for a small installation. This accolade follows last year's achievement of earning its accreditation with commendation by IMCOM-Europe inspectors.

"Our AFAP Conference is the perfect venue for our leadership to demonstrate the Army's recommitment to the Army Family Covenant. The recent award for excellence is a testament to the family readiness services our ACS provides," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Fern O. Sumpter, USAG Schinnen Garrison commander.

The Army Family Covenant is an Army-wide effort launched October 2007 to standardize and resource family readiness programs and services.

"Thank you for your support and participation in AFAP these past two days. It shows that you care about your community," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Byron S. Bagby, the Director of Operations at NATO's Joint Forces Command Headquarters in Brunssum and the General Officer Senior Mission Commander for U.S. forces stationed in the Netherlands.

"As our Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army said, never before in the history of our Army have we asked so much of our Families. The Army Family Covenant document that we're signing today reaffirms our commitment to you and your well being," Bagby said.

On the official Army Family Covenant document signed Feb. 4, Bagby's, Sumpter's and USAG Schinnen's Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Mary L. Brown's signatures joined those of Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston.

Installations around the world, including USAG Schinnen, hold local AFAP Conferences to collect issues from Soldiers and Family Members that are solved at the local level, determined to be unachievable, or forwarded up the chain of command for consideration and resolution. AFAP helps ensure that family readiness programs meet Army standards and focus on local needs.

During a recent Department of the Army level AFAP conference held in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 11 to 15, Casey said, "The Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, and I have six major objectives for 2011. We will continue our efforts to restore balance to the Army by 2011; execute Afghanistan plus-up and responsibly drawdown in Iraq; sustain Soldiers, Families and civilians; establish an integrated Army management system; implement an Army leader development strategy; and establish the Army of the 21st century,... but the most important thing we will do is to increase the time Soldiers stay home.

"The Army Family Covenant is one of the programs that we will continue to put the right amount of funding into so that family programs provide for all Soldiers and their families. Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Installation Management Command commanding general, is just the man to get this job done right," Casey said.

Lynch, who took command of the IMCOM in a ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., Nov. 3, 2009, oversees U.S. Army garrisons, like USAG Schinnen, worldwide.

Lynch has gained recognition throughout IMCOM with his regular "Defender 6 Sends" messages.

In a 'Defender 6' message sent Jan. 13, Lynch expressed his surprise that many people are not familiar with the Army Family Covenant, and he emphasized that IMCOM and garrisons around the world is delivering the Army Family Covenant with a focus on five specific areas: standardization and funding of existing programs and services; increasing accessibility and quality of health care; improving Soldier and Family housing; ensuring excellence in schools, youth services and child care; and expanding education and employment opportunities for Family members.

IMCOM is comprised of seven regions. Three regions in the continental United States are Northeast, Southeast and West. There are also regions in Korea, the Pacific, the National Capital Region District, and Europe.