Fort Jackson Housing Division wins two national awards
January 17, 2014
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Fort Jackson's Housing Division, Directorate of Public Works, has been honored for its work in 2013 by the Professional Housing Management Association.
The PHMA has named Fort Jackson's Housing Division the 2013 U.S. Army Outstanding Housing Team (Privatized Location) of the year, while Emma Watson, the division's chief, was selected as the year's U.S. Army Outstanding Senior Housing Manager.
"We've known for years on Fort Jackson that Emma and her entire team are totally focused on customer care and making sure Army families have every opportunity to make their house a home," said Col. Michael Graese, Fort Jackson garrison commander. "Now, the rest of the Army will also know."
The primary mission of the Housing Division is to assist Soldiers and families in securing off-post housing, Watson said. It's usually a lot more complicated than it sounds.
"We get involved with landlord-tenant disputes, in- and out-check inspections, and just helping families find suitable housing off post," Watson said.
But the office also has an oversight role in the post's First Sergeants Barracks Program, and assists barracks NCOs with assignments, termination and management of unaccompanied housing.
The office also includes the Furnishings Management Branch, which provides furniture for permanent party and trainee barracks. Juggling these roles and responsibilities is a matter of employing skilled workers and then getting out of their way, Watson said.
"You rely on people who are the subject matter experts for that specific area," Watson said. "My role is easy: I have a management role and just make sure the team sticks together, doing the things we're supposed to do, taking care of Soldiers and making sure their housing needs are met."
She said it might sound cliché, but the Housing Division routinely goes "above and beyond" to help Soldiers and their families.
"They really work hard to make sure the housing needs of the Soldiers and families are taken care of," she said. "Our Soldiers sacrifice so much for us and the families and spouses sacrifice somewhat equally to be a part of that military team. Everything we do should benefit that military team. I try to do my best to make sure military families are taken care of."
Watson said she believes it was this spirit of collaboration that won the office recognition from the PHMA in 2013. Last year, the office spent $3.2 million renovating 32 homes for families on post. Senior NCO Housing was also completed during the year, as were planned improvements to children's playgrounds. The office also conducted classes for families looking to purchase homes or distressed properties off post.
"We've had a good year in the sense that we finished our privatized housing," she said. "We had several off-post housing-related seminars that talked about purchasing property, new homeowner classes, inspection classes ... we did a lot of housing-related tasks during the year. I attribute my award to all the hard work everybody else did."
Watson said the office is already moving on projects slated for 2014, though funding remains a concern.
"We were able to sell some land (off post), so that's going to bring some revenue to on-post housing," she said. "We'll look at the best way to spend that money ... it could be upgrading or installing additional playgrounds, renovating additional homes, or putting more money into on-post housing."
The year's first seminar is schedule to take place next month. Titled, "Renters 101," the class will focus on the responsibilities of property managers and renters.
"It's kind of two-fold," she said. "It talks about property management responsibilities, because a lot of our military members are property managers by default because they have a home in one location but have (received Permanent Change of Station orders) to another location and want to rent it. The class talks about what the property manager's responsibilities are, as well as what the renters' responsibilities are."
Another home buyer class is set for June, and other training classes will be conducted throughout the year.
"We want to provide training and classes that our residents, Soldiers and families are interested in, so we're waiting on some feedback from them," Watson said.