FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- There are few things I find more gratifying than seeing our community reap the rewards of the Army Family Covenant. We recently re-signed the document, reaffirming Fort Jackson's commitment to build the strength and resilience of our families.

The covenant represents a huge Armywide commitment toward quality of life for our families. The covenant powers our family programs, physical and mental health care, housing, education, child care and employment opportunities for spouses. Fort Jackson stands tall in many of these areas thanks to the relentless work of those agencies and their staff members who have led these projects for our families.

We leaders are aware of the tremendous sacrifices that our families make each and every day, and to that end, we pledge to continue to provide our Soldiers and their families the quality of life that is commensurate with their service. We have come a long way in the past three years and continue to break ground along the five lines of the covenant.

Specifically, we have standardized and funded existing family programs and services; increased accessibility and quality of our health care; improved Soldier and family housing; ensured excellence in schools, youth services and child care; and have expanded education and employment opportunities for family members.

During this past year, we have witnessed a number of significant gains and refinements. Some of them include the reduction or the elimination of some fees that are associated with existing services such as child care and Children and Youth Services programs. Other services, such as after-school care and respite care, have been enhanced and expanded.

There have been new programs added, such as the one to reach out to young parents to help them learn parenting skills and help new mothers shed any feeling of isolation they might be experiencing. Staffing levels have been increased as well. There have been nine additional positions to support Exceptional Family Member, Employment Readiness, Financial Readiness and Mobilization and Deployment and Family Advocacy. There has also been enhanced support to Family Readiness Group leaders through FRG training and also specialty training.

We have executed a Spouse Sponsorship program that has assisted more than 400 spouses of newly arriving drill sergeants with their transitioning. We have also worked to increase the availability and quality of health care to our community as well as to sustain sports programs for Wounded Warriors.

All of these improvements and enhancements reinforce the fact that strong families are important to our Army. Strong families are a readiness issue. The Army is committed to providing our families a strong supportive environment in which they can thrive. By re-signing this document for the third consecutive year, we again reaffirm our commitment. All of us realize that the covenant is the fountain for our success.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!