COLUMBUS, Ga. (Army News Service, April 17, 2008) - The Army formally signed its first community covenant Thursday between Fort Benning and the towns of Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City, Ala., launching a mutual commitment of support by the Army and the local communities to Soldiers and Families.

This symbolic first will serve as a kick-off to other community covenant signings across the nation which will be put in place between April and December 2008. Fort Benning was chosen to launch the program because the tri-community area has served as an example of long-standing relationships and history shared between the installation and local communities, officials said.

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren addressed the audience of Soldiers, Families and community leaders thanking them for the support they've given Fort Benning in its 90-year history, saying the Army hopes to build on the great successes nationwide that Columbus and Phenix City have set through their examples of solid support.

"We've doubled the funding in the budget for family programs over the last year and we're continuing to have that funding, but there's no substitute for neighbors helping neighbors and that's why (we have) this community covenant to thank Columbus and Phenix City for the wonderful support they give our Families and to affirm what they do and to build upon it," he said.

"Nearly two-thirds of the Soldiers based at Fort Benning live in the community and the community embraces them, works with them through hard times," Geren added. "You have programs like 'God Bless Fort Benning' and 'Home for Heroes' and other initiatives that touch Soldiers and their Families... it's a blessing in their lives."

Columbus mayor Jim Wetherington thanked Fort Benning Soldiers for doing "such a great job representing us all over the country, in wartime and in peacetime."

"You are top-notch and we just want you to know that we're so grateful to you and your Families that you leave behind when you go to places in the world to put your lives on the line," he said. "So, on behalf of Columbus, Ga., we appreciate you more than you know and God bless our military people, and especially those at Fort Benning."

Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin pledged his community as one with the Army saying each has always focused on taking care of the other and that would not stop.

"Fort Benning means more to us than simple economics; together our partnership with Columbus and Fort Benning will endeavor to achieve positive solutions to the many challenges our military and their Families face," he said. "Whatever we can do to enhance the lives and increase the partnership with the tri-community Families, we will pursue vigorously."

The Army Community Covenant states:

Supporting those who serve

Together, We are committed to building strong communities. We, the Community, recognize...

The commitment Soldiers and their Families are making every day.

The strength of Soldiers comes from the strength of their Families.

The strength of Families is supported by the strength of the Community.

The strength of the Community comes from the support of Employers, Educators, Civic and Business leaders, and its Citizens.

We, the Community, are committed to...
Building partnerships that support the strength, resilience, and readiness of Soldiers and their Families.

Assisting in the implementation of the Army Family Covenant.