WASHINGTON, (Army News Service, Nov. 23, 2007) - From Camp Zama, Japan, to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., leaders at installations across the Army signed Family Covenants in November, with the remaining posts scheduled for signing ceremonies throughout December.

The Army Family Covenant represents a $1.4 billion commitment to improve the quality of life for Army Families. It formally recognizes the sacrifices made on the home front while the Army is at war and pledges to standardize funding for existing Family programs and services. The covenant also seeks to increase the accessibility and quality of health care, improve Soldier and Family housing, ensure excellence in schools, youth services and child care, and expand education and employment opportunities for Family members.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. signed the official Army Family Covenant Oct. 17 at Fort Knox, Ky. Army installations worldwide have been following with there own covenant signings.

During the covenant signing at Camp Zama, Japan Nov. 2, Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, commanding general of I Corps (Forward) / U.S. Army Japan, said: "The health of our all-volunteer force is dependant on the health of our all-volunteer Family.

"The Army recognizes that our Families were the most stretched and stressed part of our Army," Maj. Gen. Perkins said. "More than half of the Army's Soldiers are married and there are over 700,000 Army children. This covenant and many other programs to come are the beginning of the Army's pledge to our Families so that they know they are supported and that the Army cares for them."

Some of the programs initiated for Camp Zama Families include discounted local tours; free bowling; improved Soldier and Family housing; enhanced television viewing selections; DSL Internet service; and several facility upgrades.

A Family Covenant signing ceremony in Brunssum, Netherlands, Nov. 6, included Army leaders from U.S. Army Garrison Benelux, USAG Schinnen, USAG Brussels and ChiAfA..vres Garrison. Quality-of-life improvements throughout the local military community will include the addition of two permanent child development centers that will accommodate an additional 200 child spaces - one in USAG Schinnen, another at USAG Brussels - and the construction of a new commissary and Army Lodge at ChiAfA..vres Air Base.

Tobyhanna Army Depot leaders signed their Army Family Covenant Nov. 8. Construction of a new child development center and renovations to the commissary and Post Exchange are some improvements that will take place under this program.

At Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, Army leaders signed a Family Covenant Nov. 8. As part of the recent post improvements, the child development center received 35 additional spaces and approximately 1,800 Soldiers received renovated barracks rooms. The old gym is also undergoing renovations to become a state-of-the-art youth workout center, which will feature a climbing wall among many other amenities. Additionally, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service committed $2 million to upgrade every exchange operation on Warner Barracks.

In the last two to three years, 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 family readiness support assistants at the battalion level.

(Audra Calloway writes for Army News Service.)