FORT BENNING , Ga. - Maj. Gen. Robert Brown renewed the installation's commitment Friday to the Army Family Covenant.

In a ceremony at the new Army Community Service building, formerly Patch Hall, the Fort Benning and Maneuver Center of Excellence commander signed the covenant, followed by Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Hardy, Col. Thomas Macdonald and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore.

Post commanders sign the covenant shortly after taking command. Brown is the fifth Fort Benning commander to sign it.

The Army Family Covenant was introduced Armywide in October 2007 as a means of institutionalizing the Army's commitment to provide Soldiers and families a quality of life commensurate with their level of service and sacrifice. It commits the Army to improve family readiness by standardizing programs and services, increasing accessibility to health care, improving housing, ensuring excellence in Child, Youth and School Services, and expanding education and employment opportunities for family members.

"It is both a promise and a pledge - a promise to take better care of our Army families and ... a pledge to put our money where our mouth is by providing the funds needed to keep that promise," said Brown, addressing the crowd. "They used to say, 'If Uncle Sam had wanted you to have a family he'd have issued you one.' That's no longer true. Now, when it comes to recruiting and retention, families are a top priority."

Nearly 55 percent of today's Soldiers are married and 48 percent have children, with about 9 percent of families being dual military, Brown said.

"Those numbers underscore the need for affordable and quality child care programs and services," Brown said.
Army Family Covenant funding is "heavily routed toward child care programs," said Megan Baumgartner, outreach services director for Child, Youth & School Services.

Baumgartner manages the CYSS budget and said Fort Benning has received an increase in Army Family Covenant funding each year since its inception. For fiscal 2011, the installation received just under $450,000.

"We have made significant progress since this covenant was first signed at Fort Benning in 2007," said Brown, citing expanded benefits and support services for families.

AFC money has supported the opening of the McGraw and Indianhead child development centers, the creation of the new School Age Services building and the establishment of Survivor Outreach Services.

In the past two years, CYSS has issued more than 5,300 AFC discount cards for families of deployed Soldiers.

Benefits provided by the discount cards include 20 percent off full-day child care fees, a $300 credit toward participation in SKIES Unlimited classes or youth sports and 16 hours of free hourly care per month.

Brown said the reduced rates and fees saved families more than $511,000 in fiscal 2010.

Under the covenant, the installation has also begun construction of a new hospital, supported renovation of existing child development centers, and opened the new family entertainment center on main post and community centers in neighborhoods. Programs have been implemented for youth such as theEDGE and HIRED! The post celebrated the opening of the Huddle House last fall and now the opening of the Army Community Service facility, which was recently relocated from various facilities around post to the historic Patch Hall, Building 7, on Baltzell Avenue.

The building houses employment readiness, family advocacy, the exceptional family member program, survivor outreach services and other programs and resources that were once spread across post.

An open house followed the signing. Children participated in a scavenger hunt, with the grand prize winner receiving a family vacation to Destin Army Recreation Area.