HOHENFELS, Germany -- In a historic move, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Neumarkt County and the municipalities of Hohenfels, Lupburg, Parsberg, and Velburg signed the first Sustainable Communities Partnership between the U.S. Army in Europe and a host nation at Parsberg Castle.

"We have a great community that is dedicated and supportive of each other," said Col. John M. Spiszer, Joint Multinational Readiness Center commander. "This covenant is our commitment to continue working on improving our relationship."

The sustainability covenant's goal is to present opportunities for cooperation in economic, cultural, and other areas between the Hohenfels Military Community and the County of Neumarkt and surrounding territories. The participants pledged to work closer together in the areas of renewable energies and environmental protection, as well as housing and quality of life.

"This Covenant is also designed to focus on an important aspect of what all of us need to do today-to become more sustainable in how we operate, work, and live," said Spiszer. "This is necessary for all of us economically, as good neighbors, and as good stewards of this earth and its resources."

While the garrison has always had close relations with the surrounding communities, the Sustainability Covenant represents an increased commitment to a partnership at the county level. Neumarkt County Commissioner Albert Loehner said, "The U.S. garrison, the county, and the towns combine together a cooperative and problem-free relationship. We have common plans, ideas and visions, and with the agreement we are entering a new and fruitful phase of our cooperation."

"Sustainability is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," said Lt. Col. Kevin J. Quarles, garrison commander. He added that one of the garrison's primary goals is to convert its energy production from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

"That's a goal we cannot accomplish without the assistance of our host nation partners," he said.

Initial steps towards such energy conversions began in March, when Neumarkt County hosted a "Green Energy" tour for officials from Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr. Locations visited included a biogas heat and electricity production facility, a solar power plant, local windmills, and other sustainable facilities.

But sustainability is more than just concern for the environment, Quarles said. "It is about our communities and economic systems and how they will survive into the future."

"Our only limitation in this partnership is our imagination," said Quarles. "Anything from photovoltaic and biomass energy to something as small as a find-it guide so that our Soldiers and families can locate off-post resources more easily is within the realm of possibility."

Other areas intended for development include improvements to government-leased housing, increased interaction between the military and host nation schools, and increased access to off-post retail goods and services, including medical care providers.

For the Government of Upper Palatinate, which supports the cooperation project, Axel Koch said: "Today is an intermediate step to further strengthen the cooperation between the County of Neumarkt, the surrounding communities and the U.S. Army."

He expressed hope that the covenant would serve as an example to other military communities in Germany.

"For me, the signing is the confirmation of the decades long good relationship between the U.S. Army and the community," said Bernhard Graf, mayor of Hohenfels. He said he looked forward to even closer cooperations through this agreement.

Quarles acknowledged the historic signing was merely a first step in the garrison's strategic action plan to improve sustainability through community partnerships. But planning began in earnest with the first meeting of the Community Development Network, Nov. 24.

"This is truly a home away from home for all of the U.S. Army here in the Oberpfalz." Spiszer said. "We greatly desire to continue being good members of the greater community in the area and want to work on all aspects of what that means."