By Evan Dyson, IMCOMOctober 13, 2011
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2011 -- Top Army leadership renewed the Army Family Covenant, the Army's formal commitment to support Soldiers and their families, with a signing this week at the 2011 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III conducted the signing Oct. 10. Accompanying them on stage was Sgt. Jeremy Barnhart and his family, who were recognized as the 2011 AUSA Volunteer Family of the Year.
"We talk a lot about the Army family," said McHugh. "We hear it on radio and on television. We read about it in virtually any Army publication and it is important that we talk about it. It's important that we remind ourselves, but it can't just be a bumper sticker."
McHugh added, "[We must not forget that] with all these great Soldiers, men and women in uniform, forward deployed -- wherever that deployment may take them, more than 80 countries across this planet -- that back home there are folks like yourselves who are struggling as well and holding that family together."
While acknowledging the hardships that the Army has endured during the past ten years of conflict, Odierno said family programs must ensure that our families remain strong.
"The reason we're able to have an all-volunteer force is because of the support we get from families," said Odierno. "These are people who raised their right hand to say 'I want to serve' and that decision does not come alone."
The Army Family Covenant was originally unveiled on Oct. 8, 2007 to represent the Army's commitment to providing Soldiers and their families with a quality of life commensurate with their service and sacrifice. In the time since, a variety of programs have been developed and enhanced, including Survivor Outreach Services, Child, Youth and School Services, Exceptional Family Member respite care and New Parent Support.
"We have two families," said Odierno. "We have our biological family and we have our Army family. We need both and we need to make sure that all of you have confidence that your Army family will be there for you when you most need them."
While the Army works to adjust to a new fiscal reality, Army leadership reaffirmed their commitment to continue providing Soldiers and families with quality programs and services at the levels necessary to support their daily lives and sustain their well-being.
"We will not make family programs the bill payers for other kinds of initiatives," said McHugh.
Odierno stressed the importance of feedback from the field in identifying what programs provide the most benefit to the Army family. Discussions like the Family Forums at AUSA, as well as comments from the field, are critical to informing leadership about what needs to be done to continue to provide quality programs and services to Soldiers and their families.