ARLINGTON, Va. - Top Army officials honored the best Army communities in the world in a May 8 ceremony for the annual Army Communities of Excellence competition.

Among the winners for the prestigious ACOE award stood U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, winning third place and accepting a check for $750,000.

First place winners Fort A.P. Hill, Va. won $2 million and second place winners from Fort Meade, Md. received $1 million.

"The ACOE competition recognizes excellence in installation management and encourages and rewards installations that optimize opportunities and demonstrate a commitment to service and excellence," said Maj. Gen. John A. Macdonald, Installation Management Command deputy commander to a crowd of about 200 people at the Pentagon auditorium. "I'm extremely proud of each award winner."

The West Virginia Army National Guard won $750,000 in its competition of all 50 state national guards and four territories. In the Reserve category, the Puerto Rico unit, 65th Regional Readiness Command also won $750,000.

"I extend my sincere gratitude for the winner's commitment to excellence and ask that they continue to take steps toward further improvement; share what they know around the Army and know that their efforts impact Soldiers and their Families who make countless sacrifices on behalf of the nation," Macdonald said.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard A. Cody presided over the ceremony. He said quality installations are linked to retaining quality Soldiers and their families.

"They know the costs, but still they serve ... [they reenlist] to stay in this Army to be with their buddies and defend this country," Cody said. "They reenlist also because of the communities that you've established."

Cody tied Army communities into the promise of the Army Family Covenant.

"Our Soldiers and Families have earned the respect and gratitude of this nation," he said. "They deserve a quality of life equal to the quality of their service ... and more."

Cody said everyone in the Installation Management Command plays a vital role in keeping the Army Family Covenant.

The Vice Chief also said the Army is set to invest more than $66 billion in installation infrastructure, to include more than 4,100 homes, 66 child development centers and 20 new brigade complexes.

"This is the largest investment of our infrastructure ... since World War II," Cody said. "It's long overdue and I know you are going to be good stewards of this money that we are putting into our posts, camps and stations."

Cody told the gathering of ACOE winners that IMCOM is going to make this mission happen in less than seven years.

"Even more than the new facilities and the investments that we're making, you know that a community of excellence is based around leadership and taking care of people," Cody said. "I'm extremely proud of what we've done with the Installation Management Command ... it's come a long way and it's meeting the vision that we established for it. Thank you for taking care of this great Army."

USAG-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall said he wants help from the community in coming up with creative ways to spend the $750K prize.

"It has to be a community-oriented project that will help a lot of people," Hall said. "We're open to suggestions."

Hall said community members can send their ideas on how to spend the winnings to the Commander's Hotline.