Fort Lewis Lodging earns ‘operation of the year’ award

September 25, 2008

By Barbara L. Sellers

FORT LEWIS, Wash. – It’s no wonder Fort Lewis continues to be the station of choice for Soldiers and family members. When it comes to finding a place to stay, Fort Lewis can now say it provides the best lodging in the Army.

Fort Lewis Lodging was selected as the 2008 Army Lodging Operation of the Year, super category (600 beds or more).

Cindy Moinette, general manager, received the award Aug. 26 during the Soldier and Family Action Plan Training Symposium Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Conference in Louisville, Ky.

For winning the award, the Fort Lewis Lodge received a trophy and $10,000 for the lodging fund, and each employee will get a $135 bonus and a pin.

“This award represents a lot of hard work,” Moinette said. “Army lodging has very strict standards that cover everything from interior carpeting to exterior landscaping.”

To be considered for the award, Moinette and her team of professionals first had to do a self-assessment and put together a packet that was sent to Alexandria, Va. Out of all the packets received, Fort Lewis was selected to go forward in the competition for the on-site inspection.

“Two inspectors came here for three days, and they left no rock unturned,” Moinette said. “They knew exactly what they wanted to see and they checked everything – services, operations and facilities.”

The inspectors checked financial operations, including budgeting, credit cards, audits, five-year plans, and fixed-asset inventories, she said. They checked front desk operations, housekeeping operations, maintenance, personnel management, furnishings and even pulled mattress pads.

“They also looked at training files and checked each staff member’s IDPs (Individual Development Plan) to see if they had required training,” Moinette said. “The inspectors were very thorough. They talked to everybody, and everything was graded.”

One challenge the lodge manager faces is getting all multi-cultural staff members at Fort Lewis (who speak Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish and other languages) the training they need to read and speak English. Right now she has 147 staff members, and in the summers that number goes up 20 more for North Fort Lewis.

“We require all of our staff to speak English because we have (cleaning) chemicals that we use so they have to be able to read,” Moinette said. “We don’t want any safety issues because of a language barrier.”

Now that Fort Lewis Lodging has won the top award, however, the most difficult part is continuing to maintain the same high standards every day of the year, year after year, she said.

“Detail, detail. We must always pay attention to detail,” Moinette said. “It never stops, but I love what I do. The only reason we are here is to take care of service members and their families, and I think what we do is important. Providing the best possible Army lodging is essential because Army lodging plays a vital part in military family life.”

Fort Lewis Lodging consists of 1,159 bed spaces located on Fort Lewis, counting the 548 on North Fort Lewis, and 19 at Bronson Hall. There are 189 bed spaces at Yakima Training Center, she said.

Rainier Inn, which opened in August 2008, consists of 185 rooms (75 family suites and 110 extended-stay rooms), and a continental breakfast is provided.

“The inn is the first of its kind on this installation to have and operate its own commercial laundry,” Moinette said.

The inn has a satellite reception for all television viewing, a state-of-the-art network system and a computer room with data ports.

“We run at 97 to 98 percent full all the time in the summer, from March to November,” Moinette said. “During the holiday months, it’s a little slower, but we have a very high utilization.”

Warrant Officer Brian Culp, I Corps, said he and his wife stayed in a family suite at Rainier Inn when they first came to Fort Lewis and they very much enjoyed their stay.

“It facilitated all of our needs,” he said. “The room was immaculate, very clean and very nice.”

Culp said they were given a key to access the laundry facility, which was kept equally clean at all times.

“The location is very good, too,” Culp said.

Since they were new to the post and didn’t know their way around yet, he said they were very happy that the lodge is located so close to the Post Exchange and commissary.

“This is a very exciting time for Fort Lewis Lodging,” Moinette said. “It’s important to maintain exceptional quality of life programs and facilities for Soldiers, warriors in transition and their families, and this is what we do. It truly is a great place to stay.”

Barbara L. Sellers is a reporter with Fort Lewis’ Northwest Guardian