As our Soldiers and families persevere in their service to the nation, it is heartening to know that we are not in this alone — our fellow citizens want to understand what we are experiencing and support us where they can.
That is why reaching out to the communities around us is so vitally important.
The Army has a history filled with supportive relationships with communities that surround our installations. The Army has also developed strong relationships with local, state and national organizations that provide a wide range of support for Soldiers and families.
These relationships are more critical than ever.
The Army cannot always offer the most comprehensive assistance for the challenges that our Soldiers and families face. This is especially true for National Guard, active reserve and active component Soldiers and families who live far from installations.
The need for support and the demand on our resources require us to reach out to those who can help us keep the Army Family Covenant promise: to take care of Soldiers and families. A volunteer, local service provider or a state or national organization may be able to offer the expertise, assistance and support services that fill critical needs.
Their support has become so important that the Army Community Covenant was launched in April 2008 to formalize and facilitate these relationships.
To date, communities in 49 states, three territories and the District of Columbia have conducted more than 500 covenant signing ceremonies, pledging to find ways to enhance the quality of life for Soldiers and families.
These ceremonies recognize and celebrate the communities’ commitments, but they are not an end in themselves. They are an important step in taking action to link support to specific Soldier and family needs.
The first step in effective community outreach begins with building strong, real relationships.
Americans are inspired to offer their support when they learn more about military life and gain a deeper understanding of the personal challenges that Soldiers and families experience.
It is crucial that Army leaders make every effort to get to know local leaders and invite them and community members to attend events on post. Army leaders must also be prepared to answer when local leaders ask, “How can we help?”
I know what the power of community support can do for Soldiers and their families.
When I was the III Corps and Fort Hood commander, I worked to establish a Resiliency Campus, which gathered a number of programs in one location in support of Soldiers’ and families’ mental, spiritual and physical well-being.
As senior commander, I was able to dedicate the space and ensure that infrastructure improvements were made, but it was the embrace of the community outside the gate — their contributions of materials, services and expertise — that made the campus a reality.
Our communities are eager to meet us halfway. They readily and generously express their gratitude and support for our Soldiers and families.
The challenge is to clearly communicate our needs and facilitate their support for us.
The support and contributions from our communities will enable us to keep our promise to provide Soldiers and families a quality of life commensurate with their service.