Third Army/U.S. Army Central Soldiers, Civilian employees and Family members experienced the city of Sumter's personal response to Third Army's Sumter Strategic Relocation Expo during a tour of the community March 27.

Travelers from Fort McPherson were welcomed by the City of Sumter Fire Department honor guard who presented the colors as Joseph T. McElveen Jr., mayor of Sumter, led the entire gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance.

"The Sumter community has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the Air Force, and we are looking forward to the arrival of Third Army," McElveen. said. "We welcome and admire the morals and values that the military brings to our community."

Southern hospitality was not taken lightly by the Sumter hosts.

Each participant was assigned a sponsor from the Sumter community who accompanied them throughout the day to ensure a first-class tour was given to their soon-to-be neighbors.

Prior to their arrival, Third Army Families selected areas of interest specific to their needs.

Schools, houses for sale and cultural venues were the most popular choices and were made available for viewing by visiting Families.

"I was looking for downtown living and was able to view the area the city will be revitalizing - and it looks promising," said Rovelma Hudson, a Civilian employee with the Third Army Safety Office. "I visited the museum, library and opera house. For a town this size, they do have a multitude of venues, and as a professional shopper, I did find a few deals while in Sumter."

Sumter sponsors drove Soldiers, Civilian employees and their Families to the area's private and public schools where they were escorted throughout the facilities by teachers and staff.

With 37 open houses operating throughout 22 neighborhoods during their visit, many took the opportunity to walk through some of the available homes in Sumter.

Many Third Army attendees said they were pleased to see recently constructed houses with spacious yards and a commute of less than 20 minutes.

"Initially, we were definitely going to live in Columbia, however, now we will live in Sumter and plan to build a home in a subdivision in Dalzell," said Dr. Sharon Locklear, a Civilian employee with Third Army G-1. "Our sponsor was wonderfully informative. We visited subdivisions, schools, local restaurants and other places of interest. The best thing was the commute and lack of traffic."

As the tour concluded, McElveen expressed the community's excitement in anticipation of Third Army's move.

"We are proud to welcome Third Army to Sumter," McElveen said. "We are proud to call you our friends and neighbors. You are our heroes."

Preparations for the arrival of Third Army include additional gates to access the base scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2011.

The expansion of the base exchange is also part of the future plans.