GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Senior leaders from the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr area signed the Army Family Covenant Nov. 5, pledging their support to Soldiers' families while they defend the nation.

Brig. Gen. David Hogg, commander of 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command, and Col. Brian Boyle, commander of USAG Grafenwoehr, signed the covenant - a $1.4 billion commitment to improve the quality of life for Army Families worldwide - during a ceremony at the Vilseck Memorial Fitness Center.

Similar signings have taken place at Army installations throughout Europe as a show of force and solidarity, "reaffirming the many actions that have already taken place to improve the quality of life for our Soldiers and their family members and our continued commitment to make Europe a positive assignment ...," said Boyle, before introducing Hogg.

Hogg explained to attendees that "it is clear to us that the families were the most stretched, and as a result, the most stressed, part of our force, and that what we were asking those families was a quantum different than anything I expected we would ask."

He quoted Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., noting that "our Army has recognized the strain, and has begun to move resources into the support of families. We are listening to our families, and we are acting other guidance. We have much left to do, but we have made headway."

Hogg assured the families in attendance that he, along with the Army's senior leadership, gets it.

"They understand and are focused on getting resources to make your life better," he said. Hogg explained that the push to improve the lives of Army families did not begin with the signing of the covenant, but has been a work in process for a long time.

"And we will continue to fight for more resources (during) the coming years," he said.

In the last two to three years alone, the Army has privatized and improved almost 80,000 homes on 36 installations and opened 40 new childcare centers, with another 22 on the way. The Army also recently spent $50 million to hire new healthcare providers for Soldiers and their families, and is working with lawmakers to help Army spouses gain priority for civil service jobs. There are also now family readiness support assistants at the battalion level.

Both Hogg and Boyle explained that the $1.4 billion would still have to be approved by Congress.

"I am fairly confident we will get this authorization from Congress but I don't want anyone to leave here thinking it is a done deal," said Hogg. "We are dependent on our representatives to authorize us this money."

During the initial Army Family Covenant signing Oct. 17 at Fort Knox, Ky., Casey said the Army wants to provide Soldiers and their families with a level of support commensurate with their level of service, and the covenant is in direct response to concerns from Army Families. He said they are concerned about funding and support for family programs, physical and mental healthcare, housing, education and childcare and employment opportunities for spouses.

Army wife Karin Denny attended the Vilseck ceremony and said she was excited about the program.

"If there's one part that affects me, then there's a part that will affect someone else. So it'll affect everyone in some aspect," said Denny.

She said the most important element of the new program would be funding. "It will make things happen," she said. "This will get us back up to the level where we need to be, if not beyond. If the funding comes in during the (Vilseck-based 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment) deployment, it's going to be a huge help to the spouses who are essentially single parents right now."