By Dennis Ryan, Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd, Esther Dacanay and Karl WeiselNovember 6, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 7, 2007) Aca,!" The secretary of the Army, vice chief of staff of the Army and leaders from a number of installations around the world added their names to the Army Family Covenant this week.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Gen. Richard Cody joined leaders from installations including Fort Myer, Va.; Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort McPherson, Ga.; Camp Zama, Japan and Wiesbaden, Germany, in pledging to take care of and honor Army Families.
The covenant pledges to provide support for Army Families, increase the accessibility and quality of healthcare, improve Soldier and Family housing and fund Family programs and services.
The agreement provides $1.4 billion for fiscal year 2008, and the Army leadership is looking to include similar measures in the budget for the next five years. According to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Cody, the Army has committed $40 billion over the next six years to support Family programs.
Aca,!A"The Soldiers have stepped up,Aca,!A? Secretary Geren said Monday during Fort MyerAca,!a,,cs ceremony. Aca,!A"The Families have stepped up with them,Aca,!A? adding that the covenant is a way to help the Army Families who have been bearing a large part of the burden in this long war.
Fort MyerAca,!a,,cs ceremony was originally scheduled for the construction site of its new, $18.5 million child development center, signifying that postAca,!a,,cs commitment to children. The location had to move due to the weather, but children from both of the current child development centers were on hand for the ceremony, and Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) escorted some of the Families to their seats.
Other Fort Myer initiatives to support Families include improvements to the post exchange, commissary and bowling alley.
Of the $40 billion pledged by the Army, $2.3 billion is earmarked for Hawaii. Col. Matthew Margotta, commander, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, said during ThursdayAca,!a,,cs Schofield BarrackAca,!a,,cs ceremony that Army posts in Hawaii are already seeing the improvements in Family programs.
He added that through the Residential Communities Initiative, the Army will build 8,000 homes, eliminating inadequate housing and the current deficit of on-post homes. Other initiatives include a $720,000 renovation of the Soldier and Family Assistance Center and funding for the recruitment of nine support staff, and approximately $1.3 million to support the hiring of 33 Family-readiness support assistants.
Another $100 million has been spent to improve the quality of life in Camp Zama, said Richard L. Williams, deputy commander, USAG Japan, Friday. Improvements include discounted local tours, free bowling, improved Soldier and Family housing, enhanced television viewing selections, high-speed Internet service and several facility upgrades.
Col. Ray Graham, commander of USAGs Hessen and Wiesbaden, said Oct. 30 that local city and state officials have also pledged to support American Soldiers and their Families.
For example, the city of Wiesbaden invited 1,000 U.S. Soldiers and Families to enjoy a free dance comedy at the Wiesbaden State Theater during the holiday season. Other upcoming German-American events include caroling at Mainz City Hall and an annual tea hosted by Hessen Minister President Roland Koch for Army Families.
Sue Hertling, wife of 1st Armored Division Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, praised the Army's focus on Families during the ceremony.
"There's one statement in particular that resonates most deeply with me. It's the second statement in the covenant; it says, 'We recognize the strength of our Soldiers comes from the strength of our Families.' I am in absolute awe of our Army Families," she said, adding that military Families today are especially challenged with the ongoing war on terrorism.
Although Lissette Agurre is new to the Army Family, she sees the importance of the Army Family Covenant. "The covenant means that my kids will be taken care of," she said after the Hawaii ceremony. "I think that is the most important thing."
For Spc. Chaz Walker, 732nd Military Intelligence Battalion, the covenant means a better quality of life around Hawaii. "The covenant means the Army is giving back to us," he said. "It means better housing and better facilities on post such as medical and the chapel. This shows that our leadership cares about the Family and is doing everything they can to help."
Gen. Cody, who is making his way to Army posts around the globe to sign the covenant, says taking care of Army Families is an important step in winning the war on terror.
"We are an all-volunteer Army and we're an Army at war," he said during the ceremony at Schofield Barracks. "The reason why our Soldiers fight and are so brave, and why they're so strong is because they want their Families and their children to grow in the country they grew up in with the same freedoms and the same quality of life.
"The sacrifices of our Soldiers and their selfless service are important, but equally important are the sacrifices and service of our great Army Families. This is a commitment by our Army to take care of you while your Soldier is deployed."
Other installations Armywide will continue scheduling ceremonies to sign the Army Covenant throughout the month, officials said.
(Dennis Ryan writes for the Aca,!A"Fort Myer Pentagram,Aca,!A? Sgt. 1st Class Jason Shepherd works for the U.S. Army Pacific Public Affairs Office, Esther Dacanay works for the Camp Zama Public Affairs Office and Karl Weisel works for the USAG Hessen Public Affairs Office.)