WIESBADEN, Germany - They say first impressions are the truest, and members of the U.S. military's Frankfurt Gateway Reception Center at the Frankfurt Airport take that saying to heart.
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"Our motto is world-class reception, and that's what we strive to provide through excellent customer service," said 1st Lt. Jacqueline Wood, executive officer for the reception center which is part of 21st Theater Sustainment Command's Human Resources Sustainment Center Europe.
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When Soldiers and families come through the arrival gates at Frankfurt Airport, signs and liaison NCOs are on hand to make sure they are greeted and helped on their way to their ultimate destinations.
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"The LNOs take a copy of their orders and fill out an inprocessing worksheet," said Wood, explaining that while passengers await transportation by sponsorship bus from the airport to their unit or installation, reception technicians add the information to a database and check to see if Soldiers will be sent on as their orders prescribe or if they are to be diverted to another assignment.
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A team of 30 Soldiers and civilians work together to accomplish this mission at the Frankfurt Airport. With offices located in the Sheraton Hotel, Gateway Reception Center staff members are constantly on the move between the two airline terminals meeting arriving flights (about 42 daily), checking on those in the dedicated waiting areas in Terminal 1 and in the center, providing welcome briefings and arranging for any special circumstances such as overnight accommodations in the event of inclement weather or delayed transportation.
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"We go above and beyond our duties to make sure Soldiers and families are taken care of from the moment they arrive until they make it to their final destination," said the center's Sgt. Maj. Mike Fuller. "We try to do everything we can to make this the best first impression for Soldiers and families new to Europe."
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That can and does include everything from walking pets to helping arrange for barracks space for service members traveling Space Available, he said.
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"The bottom line is that we're here for the customer, and the customers are the incoming Soldiers and their families," Fuller said. "Whatever we can do to make their experience better, we will."
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Roughly 800 Soldiers a month pass through the reception facility with that number surging to between 1,100 and 1,400 during peak times such as mid January, June and July. Along with those Soldiers come thousands of bags, family members and pets.
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"We spend between four-and-a-half and five million dollars a year on the Sponsorship buses," said Fuller, explaining that in the interest of safety and fiscal responsibility it's crucial that newcomers and sponsors understand the rules regarding the buses. All newly arriving service members and families are required to use the sponsorship buses with the only exceptions being those in the grades of E9, chief warrant officer 5, O5 and above who may be released to their sponsors.
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"A lot of times you get people who are really upset because they drove all the way from Bamberg or GrafenwAfAPhr to pick up people, only to find that they are required to take the sponsorship bus," said Wood. "Really, the buses are the safest way to go, and sponsors could be doing something a lot more productive for their unit back at their installation. Plus the buses cut down on fuel and vehicle use."
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"We have a 100 percent track record," said Fuller about successfully and safely transporting people by S bus, adding that especially during bad weather conditions it is crucial that people stay off the roads and leave the driving to the professionals.
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"It's policy and in their orders that they must use the S bus," said Fuller, saying sponsors must contact their Soldiers and "reiterate what's in their orders."
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Other advice for travelers from the reception experts include not traveling in uniform for force protection reasons and making sure that they don't arrive at the Frankfurt Airport on weekends or holidays.
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"We recommend that everyone take the bus ... it's definitely the most comfortable way to travel," added Wood.
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Another little known fact, said Richard Williams, operations specialist, is that with the S buses traveling throughout Europe between U.S. military installations and the airport, ID cardholders in military communities are invited to use the "free" transport on a space available basis when traveling on leave to get to and from flights. "There's a bus that comes from your community up here every day. I would encourage everyone to check with his or her Central Processing Facility to find out about the buses," Williams said.
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For more information about the Frankfurt Gateway Reception Center send an email to FrankfurtReceptionCenter@eur.army.mil or call mil 334-6915 or civ (069) 69597 3815.

Page last updated Mon February 1st, 2010 at 10:24