By Rachel YoungMay 5, 2008
TACOMA, Wash. (May 2, 2008) - Puget Sound community leaders joined Fort Lewis officials May 2 to sign the Army Community Covenant, a formal recognition of the relationship between Soldiers, their families and the communities surrounding post.
Representatives from local cities, schools, commerce and civic organizations joined Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe, command sergeant major of I Corps and Fort Lewis, and Jack Creighton, Washington State Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army at Clover Park Technical College to sign the covenant and pledge support for Fort Lewis' Soldiers and families.
"Today, we gather on the campus of Clover Park Technical College, affirming our Puget Sound support for those who now serve the Army, recognizing that, together, our commitment to strong communities is being realized," said Ron Lucas, mayor of Steilacoom, in his remarks. "Our purpose is to recognize the value, contribution and strong partnership we recognize with Fort Lewis, its Soldiers, their spouses, the children who form the very backbone of so many of our cities and towns."
With about 70 percent of Fort Lewis' Soldiers and families living in the communities around the post, the Soldiers and the communities benefit from strong partnerships.
"We are proud to stand with you, we are proud to have you as our neighbor and we value that partnership and the fact that you are in our neighborhood," Lucas said.
Signing the Army Community Covenant offered an opportunity for leaders, on behalf of citizens, to renew their support for the military, said Representative Adam Smith.
"The simple truth is, it's a relatively small percentage of our population who fights for us," Smith said. "What is for the rest of us to do'"
The covenant, he said, would help remind the civilian community of ways that it can support the military, like recognizing the sacrifices of Soldiers and their families, never forgetting it, and being there to help military families whenever possible.
Representatives from Lakewood, Steilacoom, Olympia, Gig Harbor, Lacey, University Place, DuPont, Yelm, Milton, Auburn, Sumner, Roy and Tumwater, Smith, Jacoby, Grippe, Lt. Governor Brad Owen, and other military representatives signed the covenant. Major Richard Amadon, S-3 for 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 17th Fires Brigade, and his wife, Valeria, daughters Katie and Meagan signed on behalf of the Fort Lewis community, which will benefit most from of the document.
For Jacoby, one of the benefits of the community covenant is retention. "It's very important for us to re-enlist or have Soldiers stay in the Army, wonderful combat veterans that we want to continue service to the country," Jacoby said. "Fort Lewis has twice the Army average of Soldiers re-enlisting to stay in their present duty assignment at Fort Lewis."
Jacoby attributes this phenomenon to the communities around Fort Lewis. Soldiers are respected community members, they enjoy the schools, shopping and job opportunities, he said.
"To me, that is one of the hugely tangible benefits of a close connection with community," he said.
While most installations are surrounded by a few communities, Fort Lewis' location, supported by more than 10 separate communities, is unique in the Army. It might seem like that would make it harder for Lewis' leadership in working with them all, but, Jacoby said, the reality is that Soldiers and families benefit greatly from having more communities to choose from to live in, work in and educate their children in.
"We find a rich diversity in our community in the number of towns and districts and cities...There is something for everyone here," he said. "We enjoy the diversity of the South Puget Sound."
Rachel Young is a reporter on the staff of the Northwest Guardian, Fort Lewis' authorized newspaper