|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
Our Soldiers have been steadfast
in their service to the nation during the past nine years of conflict.
Their Families have been just as constant in their own dedicated
service, providing the strength and support that enables Soldiers to do
their jobs. Our Soldiers and Families persevere in their service to the
nation in the face of repeated deployments and even greater challenges.
It is heartening to know that we are not in this alone — our fellow
citizens want to understand what we are experiencing and share a deep
desire to support us where they can. Sometimes they simply do not know
where to begin or how to make the connection to channel their
appreciation and support into action. That is why reaching out to the
communities around us is so vitally important.
The Army has a long history of supportive relationships with surrounding
communities. San Antonio claims the title of Military City, USA, but
many more communities could lay equal claim, their ties with the
installations in their areas being as long-standing and deep-rooted.
Over the years the Army also has developed strong relationships with
local, state and national organizations that provide a wide range of
support for Soldiers and Families, including programs focused on health
care, education, child development, employment, financial aid, and
morale and recreation.
Now those relationships are more critical than ever. The Army cannot
always offer the most-comprehensive assistance for the number and kinds
of 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 great need for support
and the great demand on our resources require us to reach out to those
who can help us keep our promise to Soldiers and Families. A volunteer,
a local service provider or a state or national organization may be able
to offer expertise, material assistance, support services, or even just
human contact that fills a critical need, especially for the Soldier or
Family member who is not near an installation.
The support that communities and organizations give to Soldiers and
Families has become so important that the Army Community Covenant was
launched in April 2008 to formalize and facilitate the 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
These ceremonies publicly 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 crucial first step is building relationships.
Effective community outreach is broader than a covenant. It 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, to attend town halls, Chamber of Commerce meetings
and other events, and to invite local leaders and community members to
attend events on post. Army leaders must be prepared to answer when
local leaders ask, “How can we help?” Americans are generous and
compassionate — if you let them know how they can help, they will.
I know from firsthand experience what the power of community support can
do for Soldiers and their Families. One recent example is when I was the
III Corps and Fort Hood Commander and worked to establish a Resiliency
Campus, which gathers in one area a number of programs to support
Soldiers’ and Families’ mental, spiritual and physical well-being. As
Senior Commander I was able to dedicate the space on post 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.
We have several valuable resources to help Soldiers and Families locate
and access programs and services available to them. Army OneSource (AOS),
http://www.myarmyonesource.com, is a single portal for information
on a wide range of services, including housing, health care, employment,
education, child care and Family services. AOS includes information on
how to contact the nearest Army community support coordinator. Community
support coordinators work to make connections between local resources
and Soldiers and Families, especially for those who live far from an
The Army Community Covenant website, at
has information on more than 600 national, state and local programs that
offer education, employment, Family, financial, survivor, wounded
warrior and other kinds of support. The website regularly adds
information on new programs as we continue to build relationships with
local, state and national organizations. The site also has ideas and
resources for Army leaders to reach out to the communities around them,
and for community members and organizations who want to offer support.
All of these resources — the Army Community Covenant resources, the
community support coordinators, the advice and ideas of fellow leaders
http://www.garrisoncommand.com, and the expertise of professionals
on installations — help Army leaders build and strengthen relationships
with communities and find innovative ways to take care of Soldiers and
We have become more effective at our community outreach efforts in
recent years, but our efforts meet with such success because our
communities are eager to meet us halfway. They readily and generously
express their gratitude and support for our Soldiers and Families.
Our challenge is to meet them all the way, 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.
Support and Defend