HANAU, Germany - Senior leaders signed the Army Family Covenant here Nov. 8, pledging to support Soldiers' families more than ever before.

The ceremony took place at Old Argonner Kaserne in the presence of about 60 community leaders, Soldiers, family members and civilian employees.

The commitment to take care of family members was signed by Kenneth Pierson, deputy garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Jose Fontanez; Lt. Col. Sean Gainey, commander of 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery; and Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, commander V Corps commander.

"I have looked up the word 'covenant' in the dictionary and it means an absolute irrevocable vow to do something. The Army makes this vow to the families," said Pierson. "Never before has there been a group of leaders saying 'now it is time to take care of Soldiers and families' life.' Leadership is making a commitment, and Soldiers and families need that commitment."

Overall, the Army Soldier Family Action Plan is an Army-wide plan to make the Army Family Covenant a reality by reaffirming the service's commitment to families, while integrating programs more effectively. The signing ceremony is a symbolic gesture to keep people informed of actions taking place to improve their quality of life.

"The covenant symbolizes a $1.4 billion investment in 2008 to improve quality of life for Army Families with a similar amount projected to be put in the budget for the next five years," said Pierson. "Three times as much money as in the last fiscal year will be spent for youth programs. Army Community Service and child care services will receive $265 million, compared to $30.7 million last year," Pierson said.

"This is bittersweet for Hanau, because we are closing the community. But I promise you that wherever you go from here things will be much better," he added.

"This is a great opportunity for the Army to put their money where their mouth is," said Hunzeker. "We have known for a long time that families are our future, and it is about time we did this."

The general added that in the past, up to 66 percent of Soldiers were single, whereas most today are married. "We have to pay tribute to this fact."

"I think it is good that they are taking care of our families, particularly the families of deployed Soldiers," said 5-7th ADA Family Readiness Group leader Amber Farrell.

"I think the Army already does a pretty good job of taking care of families, but this will hopefully improve the quality of care," Farrell said. "For example employment readiness of the spouses needs improvement stateside, and more job opportunities have to be created for them."

"I hope we will see improvements soon," she added.