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Army, civilians consummate friendships
Officials from Fort Stewart, area governments, soldiers, military families, Boy Scouts and citizens got together for a group photo before the signing of the Army Community Covenant on post Friday morning. - photo by U. S. Army / Special to the Courier
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who led the list of speakers at the Army community covenant signing ceremony Friday, said, "The signing of this covenant officially recognizes what has been a long-term relationship, a relationship that's stronger than ever because of the many deployments,"
State Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) quoted a native American saying: "The strength of a warrior is in his tribe," and said he hoped that the broad Coastal Empire community served as a tribe to make strong the warriors of the Marne Divisions.
Seventeen southeast Georgia communities and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield celebrated the strong ties that bind the Army community here with the neighboring communities by signing the Army Community Covenant in a hot, crowded Main Post Chapel Friday.
Mayors, county commissioners and other local government representatives from Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Evans, Liberty, Long and Tattnall counties, and from Claxton, Flemington, Glennville, Hinesville, Ludowici, Pembroke, Reidsville, Richmond Hill, Savannah and Springfield signed the covenant along with 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth Preston.  Family members and soldiers from Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield also signed. Separate signers represented the two installations, Fort Stewart and Hunter AAF.
Thomas said the signing formalizes what was already true of the relationship between Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield and the civilian communities.
"The signing of this covenant officially recognizes what has been a long-term relationship, a relationship that's stronger than ever because of the many deployments," Thomas said.
Lynch said the communities of southeast Georgia are the most supportive he's every seen.  The 3rd ID was able to makes its re-enlistment goal five months into the fiscal year while deployed because of the support the communities at home were providing to Army families.  The Marne soldiers were also able to focus on securing the southern Baghdad and building capacity there because of the communities' support.
"They could do that because they knew here in coastal Georgia their families were being taken care of," the general said. "We could focus on the fight because the community was focused on the family."
Preston spoke about several community best practices that have been enacted in communities across the nation to support soldiers and their families, highlighting a free tuition program being offered by Savannah Tech as an example.  The program waives application fees and gives tuition assistance to soldiers, who have deployed an application. Such programs are important because they are what soldiers and their families deserve, he said.
Preston said that the governor of Delaware is expected to sign a compact for military schoolchildren soon. The tenth signature will make operational the compact's program to aid children of soldiers. Preston did not mention that Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed the state's approval of the compact.
"We owe our soldiers and families the quality of life commensurate with their service," Preston said.
The Community Covenant is the formal recognition by the Army and communities throughout the nation of the enduring support communities provide to soldiers and Army families.  It is intended to continue to foster partnership between the Army and communities to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families, both at their current duty station and as they transfer from state to state.
The 3rd ID soldier of the year, Sgt. Michael Holbrook participated in the signing with his wife, Sarah, and daughter Kailey. Maj. Gen. Lawrence Ross, assistant adjutant general of the Army, also attended.

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