YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - The U.S. Army Chief of Staff announced the Fiscal 2008 Army Communities of Excellence winners in a congratulatory message April 15. Three Army installations out of 179 worldwide made the final list.

First place winner is Fort A.P. Hill, Va.; second place winner is Fort George G. Meade, Md.; and third place winner is U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan.

Yongsan hosted a Department of the Army inspection team in November 2007 after the Army announced it as one of the four finalists. The team took a close look at Garrison business practices, toured the installation and interviewed key leaders.

"We are estatic," said Garrison Commander Col. Dave Hall. "This is a professional, people-focused organization and it's our vision to ensure the well-being of our community."

Senior Army leaders will present the awardees with trophies and flags at a Pentagon ceremony May 8.

Yongsan will receive a $750,000 cash prize for winning third place in the annual competition.

"We will have a Garrison panel to decide how to use the winnings," Hall said. "We have some ideas already, but whatever we do, it will be tied into our stakeholders and for the common good of the community."

Hall said the Garrison will continue to invest in the installation infrastructure through facility upgrades and quality of life improvements.

"This is monumental," Hall said. "For Yongsan to break through like this to the top three says a lot about how we service our community."

Hall said USAG-Yongsan takes to heart the Installation Management Command philosophy that "we are the Army's home."

"By providing an award-winning community that offers a high quality of life, stability and service, we go a long way to attract and retain quality Soldiers and their families," Hall said. "We have a great story to tell at Yongsan."

Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management Lt. Gen. Robert Wilson said on his Web site that the ACOE program recognizes installation management performance.

"The program promotes the identification of exemplary business and management practices and also supports the promulgation of these initiatives across the Army," Wilson wrote. "With the concept of continuous improvement as a guide to achieving customer service and satisfaction, the Army Communities of Excellence program encourages and acknowledges garrisons' commitment to excellence."

An independent panel of six judges evaluated ACOE finalists against the Army Performance Improvement Criteria, which is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria common to the business world. Finalists compete against a common standard, and not against each other, officials said.

"Yongsan has a history of excellence with past ACOE successes," said Deputy Garrison Commander Don Moses. "This year's honor is indicative of the continued excellence and quality of life we provide our community members."

"USAG-Yongsan has long been known as the 'Assignment of Choice in Korea,'" said Barry Robinson, Plans, Analysis and Integration chief. "This clinches it. Our focus on Army Performance Improvement Criteria has paid off."

Robinson said the Garrison's motto of "Here for you" has led employees and staff to maintain a customer focus.

"APIC lets us integrate ongoing programs such as Common Levels of Support and Lean Six SIGMA," he said. "We feel strongly that APIC is the framework that will help us to meet our future challenges and to ensure that we continue to provide great services with innovation and increasing efficiency."

Hall said USAG-Yongsan has been and will continue to be an excellent place to live and work.

"Front-line employees are our credentials and they are the key to USAG-Yongsan being an ACOE winner this year," Hall said.