BRUNSSUM, Netherlands - With three shovels of dirt, the tri-border community and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers marked the end of the Month of the Military Child with the beginning of construction on a combined child care and youth services center.

Representatives from the U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen, Family & MWR, Joint Forces Command Brunssum, and USACE Europe District participated in a groundbreaking ceremony here April 26 for the future Tri-Border Child, Youth and School Services Center, a facility that will truly make a difference for personnel who faithfully support the NATO alliance every day, according to Lt. Gen. Jouke Eikelboom, JFC Brunssum chief of staff.

"We are home to a distinct community. We are all aware that our organizations face challenges as economic times and new structures guide us to new manning obligations, often with the intent of doing more with less," he said. "It is encouraging to see the construction of this structure as it will give our community the capability to do just that - more."

The 8 million euro joint child development center and youth services center will accommodate roughly 266 children, from infants to teenagers - a unique one-stop-shop that will provide a safe and healthy environment for tri-border families all under one roof, according to Kimberly Wayland, USAG Schinnen FMWR director.

"We're very excited about [the new center]. This facility will move us out of some older buildings and will allow us to right-size our workforce to support the entire population of children here," she said. "It will allow us to take care of children ages 0 to 18, which is wonderful for parents."

With just over 29,000 square feet of space, the new center will provide separate age-appropriate areas for children, including a computer lab and homework center for school-age children and outdoor play areas for all ages, according to Lt. Col. Rick Rieger, a program manager with the USACE Europe District.

"There's even a teaching kitchen where students can learn home-ec skills and the latest safety measures such as a video surveillance system," he said. "We at the Corps of Engineers pledge that we will work diligently with our partners to ensure a quality facility that fosters the best child care and learning environment possible."

The joint child and youth center is one of only a few of its kind in the world and the first USACE project in the Schinnen area in about 15 years, said Jessica Reath, project engineer for the Europe District.

"This project is a logistical challenge and requires a lot of coordination," she said. "It's just me out here on site, but with the work of our project delivery team, we're doing our best to make everyone happy."

Over the next few months, the site will be leveled to allow the foundation to be constructed before vertical construction begins. The facility is scheduled to be complete in August 2012 and according to Eikelboom, the center will be a valuable addition to the international community here.

"The construction of this facility, much like the accomplishments of our day-to-day missions, reminds me of the strength of partnerships that we share throughout the tri-border community," he said. "We are able to accomplish so much for the [NATO] alliance and for the communities if we work together."

"This is truly a tri-border community project that will support our children from multiple nations from the USAG Schinnen, NATO and GK [Geilenkirchen] communities," Wayland added.