By Kelley Lane-SivleySeptember 18, 2008
The quality of the Directorate of Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation programs is not news to the Redstone community. This year, Redstone's FMWR swept the competition with seven regional awards for each division and the program as a whole. One segment has even won the Department of the Army award for being this year's outstanding recreation center.
"We won for six activities: Library, Arts and Crafts, Auto Skills, Outdoor Recreation, Recreation Center, and Sports and Fitness," Mike Chemsak, FMWR recreation division chief, said. "Then we also won for the overall garrison program."
Every year, FMWR programs at every installation submit summaries of their year's activities to the Installation Management Command. It includes any new programs they have begun, along with existing programs, financial reports and marketing efforts. Installations are divided into size categories based on their Soldier population.
"The medium garrisons compete against other medium garrisons. Likewise for the other sizes, that way it's fair," Chemsak said. "You never know how you stack up against what everyone else is doing. Really you don't do it for that. You do it to provide outstanding customer service and meet the needs of your community. Awards are just an added bonus."
When FMWR representatives attended a training conference in Louisville three weeks ago, they were pleasantly surprised during the awards ceremony. Each of the six facets of Redstone's program entered in the competition took home top honors at the regional level.
"We've been competing since 2002," Chemsak said. "We've won several times and even swept it once before. Outdoor Recreation took home the Armywide award last year."
Winning programs at the regional level then competed for Department of Army honors. Chemsak just received notification that the Diane Campbell Recreation Center had won the award for recreation centers in the medium installation category for the entire Army. The actual trophy will be presented to them in October at another conference in Baltimore, Md.
Although other Redstone programs have won at the highest level before, this is the first time the Recreation Center has taken the honor, according to Bryan Marbrey, Recreation Center assistant manager. The news has buoyed their spirits.
"We're a little cocky right now," he said laughing.
Marbrey believes the reason they won this year may be due to the new things they have been trying. This year the Recreation Center has added live music events and movie nights. New Xbox 360 consoles and flat panel televisions have made videogame tournaments a popular pastime at the center. They have also added a weekly role-playing game league.
"We've added a couple new programs to what we do on an annual basis and I'm pretty sure that is what put us over the top," Marbrey said. "Plus there is the number of successful programs we do on a continual basis."
The biggest of the continuing programs is the Salute to the Military dinner the center hosts every Thanksgiving. Soldiers are treated to a multitude of happenings during the event, such as door prizes, game tournaments and movies. In addition to a traditional holiday meal, attendees can enjoy pizza and other foods as the evening wears on.
"It's a huge event," Marbrey said.
However, the dedication of the center's staff and the Soldiers they serve is by far their biggest asset, he said. Many of the new programs exist and succeed because they have offered the ideas and the hard work that have gotten them off the drawing board and onto the calendar.
"It takes a great staff to make stuff happen," Marbrey said. "We love the military. We want to support them. That is what the programs are all about. Without our Soldiers, none of it would be possible."