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DoD, Armed Services YMCA Sign Memo of Understanding

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2004 – An organization that began supporting the military during the American Civil War will continue to do so under a memorandum of understanding signed today at the Pentagon.

The Armed Services YMCA began serving military members and their families in 1861. Now, for the first time, the relationship between the Armed Services YMCA and the Defense Department is governed by a memorandum of understanding rather than a simple agreement. "The MOU just spells out the relationship and clarifies some of the gray areas that existed before," said a YMCA official.

Charles Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and retired Navy Rear Adm. S. Frank Gallo, Armed Services YMCA's national executive director, signed the memo during a ceremony in Abell's office. "The MOU recognizes the mutual support and cooperation (between the organizations)," Abell said. "Armed Services YMCA has and continues to provide great support for our service men and women and their families.

"We couldn't do what we do without the great support of you folks, and we appreciate it," Abell told Gallo during the ceremony.

The nonprofit organization has branches around the world. It offers programs and services for families and spouses, a full line of health and fitness programs and after-school and enrichment programs for military children.

The organization works closely with the United Service Organizations and other military support groups. There are 16 branches of the organization in the United States, six affiliated organizations, and 10 affiliates overseas.

The Armed Services YMCA organization serves all military personnel, but concentrates on servicemembers E-6 and below. The organization also provides support to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"As we tax our force more and more each day, whether they are deployed into one of the combat zones or standing up at home taking up the slack, we look for ways to make their lives easier and better, and the Armed Services YMCA is a key piece in doing that," Abell said.

Gallo said the organization is able to move ahead quickly. "We are able to do, without a 'by your leave' from anybody, to provide certain services," he said. "For example, we're into the Christmas season now. I can tell you that over the last month, we are delivering in excess of 35,000 toys to Reserve and Guard families around the country. We have provided food baskets to some of the lower-enlisted people who may not have the best of holidays without them."

The organization also has a major fund-raising effort under way with Woman's Day magazine. That drive has raised more than $190,000 for the Armed Services YMCA to date. "This last weekend, they received more than $14,000 alone," Gallo said. "The American people are so very generous, and it all benefits the troops who are out there."

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Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles Abell

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