In 2007 senior Army leaders signed a Family Covenant that pledged to support Soldiers' Families while they defend the nation. This covenant continues today and provides funding and support for Family programs, physical and mental healthcare, housing, education and childcare and employment opportunities for spouses.

During a time in which the Army has been stressed by multiple deployments, a covenant that provides support to Families is crucial. This is especially important in Third Army/U.S. Army Central where Soldiers stay ready to deploy at a moment's notice to any of the 18 countries in the command's area of responsibility.

As Third Army prepares to make Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. its new home this year in accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure of Fort McPherson, Ga., Third Army's Family Readiness Group has worked to ensure these covenant entitlement are available on base.

"Third Army Soldiers, civilians, and their dependents are eligible to take advantage of the Army Covenant entitlements right now on Shaw Air Force Base," explained Martha Robinson, Chief of the Airmen and Family Readiness Center. "No services are being denied."

Robinson explained that these entitlements range from sports programs to dance and taekwondo classes to childcare.

"For our youth sports we have a softball, baseball, and soccer program," Robinson said. "Those programs are open to all military and civilian members who work here on the base. That includes the Soldiers from Third Army and their dependants. Registration is open and all youth are welcome."

Families are also able to take advantage of 16 hours of free childcare. Care is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the child development center on base. There is a maximum of ten hours of care available during the day. Third Army currently has eight children enrolled in this program. Six Third Army children are also taking advantage of the after school program available for school-aged kids at the child development center.

Once a Family uses their 16 hours of free childcare, an hourly rate of $4.00 an hour is charged. When a Soldier or civilian is deployed, this rate is discounted.

"We already have Third Army Families who are arriving in April and May calling us to let us know they want to use our facilities," Robinson said. "We encourage Third Army Families to send us their information so when they arrive they can have care available."

Soldiers and civilians moving to Shaw Air Force Base who are interested in enrolling their children can call Yulanda Richardson at (803) 895-2247 to for more information.

"I'd like to welcome Third Army to Shaw and tell the Soldiers, civilians and Families to come visit our child development center," Robinson said. "We have an accredited program which offers quality care for the children of military members and the care is provided 10 hours a day for any family from age six weeks to 12 years of age. We also have a youth program and a teen program."