In Our Opinion — October 2012
Some not-so-pleasant words have cropped up in Department of Defense (DoD) circles in recent months that could have far-reaching consequences for the military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) community.
Sequestration. Travel restrictions. Spending cutbacks. These terms are not exactly what military decision makers want to hear, especially with a presidential election on the horizon that will have an impact on government spending in the long term.
In military lodging, as with all quality-of-life facilities, it's a constant struggle to obtain the necessary funding to renovate and construct lodges. But with all the obstacles you face, and especially during these tough economic times, meeting them head-on and coming out with flying colors is a benefit to the guests you serve.
Even with all the negative talk about budget cuts, all services currently have construction or renovation lodging projects either recently completed, in progress or on the schedule for the next few years.
Our annual all-services lodging report shows that facilities are still being upgraded or built, in order to provide military travelers on official or unofficial orders with an enjoyable experience during their stay.
As an example, we received a rosy picture from Army Lodging Chief Sheryl Cleland about the highly anticipated 1,000-room Army Lodge at Fort Lee, Va., as well as the 860-room lodge being constructed at Fort Benning, Ga.
Construction of the much-needed facility at Fort Lee was completed last month. Furniture and equipment are being installed in preparation for the official grand opening in early 2013.
A state-of-the art food and beverage operation is being designed inside the lodge as we speak. Once the area is completed, service members (mostly students in training) and their families and guests will have an opportunity to sit down in a nice restaurant, enjoy some comfort food paired with an ice-cold beverage in a bar/restaurant, or take food and beverages on the go.
Not only are lodging facilities being built and renovated, they are also offering advanced technology products to enhance the guests' experience. The latest high-definition televisions and a continued expansion of high-speed Internet access are being offered in guest rooms. Property management systems are getting upgrades with the latest lodging software on the market to make online reservation systems more efficient.
“Going green” has become a major emphasis in military lodging, with a number of initiatives implemented to preserve our environment. For example, Navy Lodges have introduced “green” bedding in their guest rooms, in which all major components in the mattress have either recycled or bio-based content, reducing the carbon footprint of the mattress.
With the recent memo issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) restricting government employees' travel to conferences off base, now more than ever, training must remain a focal point for lodging staff members, from housekeeping all the way up to management level, in order to provide the best customer service possible.
Whether it's budget planning, leadership skills training or basic on-the-job skills training, any job instruction that enhances the abilities of your employees to provide top-notch customer service only enhances the military lodging “mission” — making guests the No. 1 priority during their stay.
There is no question that these are very challenging times in the military, and with the threat of even further massive spending cuts on the horizon, you must continue doing the job you do each and every day, not just in lodging, but in the clubs you operate, the food and beverage operations you run, the catering operations you manage ... all of you in the MWR community are instrumental in providing quality-of-life programs on all military bases around the world, and you must not let the challenging economic climate affect on-the-job performance.
Perseverance is key.