FORT RILEY, Kan. -- From Asia to Europe and across the United States, representatives from the Department of Defense and privatized housing on military installations traveled to Fort Riley for the Housing the Forces Training Event Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 at Riley's Conference Center.
The training event brought together more than 250 military housing and lodging professionals to learn the best practices in military family housing. Instructors and facilitators of the training sessions included personnel from the Office of the Assistance Chief of Staff for Installation Management Army Housing Division, Installation Management Command, Residential Communities Initiative, Privatized Army Lodging and more.
"Housing has a large portfolio, different types of housing," said Carla Coulson, director of Installation Services Directorate. "Whether it's family owned housing, family privatized housing or single Soldier housing. We need to have a training event every year so that we understand what the policies are, what the trends are, so we're able to provide the best service and quality of life for the Soldiers and their families."
During the four-day training event, attendees met throughout the day in sessions to discuss a range of topics, including budget management, interaction and usage of data systems, management procedures and policies, as well as several other topics.
"To have all the professionals in one room from the three different areas -- owned, privatized and unaccompanied -- gives those individuals the chance to cross pollinate and learn best practices from other installations," said Paul Cramer, deputy assistance secretary of the Army (Installations, Housing and Partnerships) at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment). "We have representatives from almost all installations. It's a way for housing professionals to collaborate and learn from one another."
Each day also included a general session for everyone to meet and discuss major topics, such as fiscal changes and constraints or policy. Army housing leaders presented policies, strengths, weaknesses and updates during the general sessions. At the end, attendees were able to ask questions and receive clarification on their own comments and concerns directly from Coulson, Cramer, Col. John J. Strange Jr., chief of Army Housing Division, and Connie Glenn, acting chief of IMCOM Housing Branch.
"We hope that all of the housing professionals walk away with an increased awareness regarding why we're doing the things that we're doing," Strange said. "Sometimes, at the garrison level, they don't understand some of directives that they're getting ... Here's an opportunity for us to get together, compare notes, one garrison shares lessons learned with another garrison. They walk away better trained to provide for the Soldiers, families and civilians that they serve and provide housing for."
This was the third year the Housing the Force Training Event was held. The previous two events were held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. However this year, housing representatives and personnel of Fort Riley agreed Fort Riley would be a better location because it would put housing officials side-by-side with Soldiers and their families who are actively going through training, deployments and redeployments, said Lynn Hammond, asset manager of Fort Riley Residential Communities Initiative. This lets attendees get a better feel for and see the lives of the Soldiers and families they serve.
"We wanted to bring you to one of your war fighting divisions, that's why you're here at Fort Riley, Kansas," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Frank, 1st Infantry Division deputy commanding general, to a room packed with housing and lodging representatives during the first general session.
Representatives from across the world praised the Fort Riley division and garrison command teams, staff of the Fort Riley housing and lodging teams and personnel of other organizations involved for going above and beyond to see the attendees had everything they needed available to them and more.
"I think Fort Riley has done an amazing job welcoming us and opening their doors to us," Strange said. "The emphasis and presence from the command group from the 1st infantry Division, as well as the garrison command group (is great), but particularly the strategy or perspective that the command group has offered by bringing and showing the housing professionals a little bit about the Soldiers that they serve."
In the evenings, attendees explored Fort Riley and the post's history on a windshield tour guided by staff of Fort Riley directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.
On the final day, two groups of about 60 attendees visited Seitz Regional Training Complex for a two-hour team building session. The groups participated in three different virtual training simulations at the campus, such as the Warrior Skills Trainer. Through these training sessions, participants were able to experience and understand more about the technology used in training today's Soldiers, said Steve Crusinberry, director of Fort Riley DPTMS.
The Warrior Skills Trainer divides participants into groups of five. Each group gets into a model High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or Humvee, inside a room filled with projection screens. The simulation takes participants through a convoy traveling through hostile territory. Each participant is armed with a weapon that the screens react to when the weapon is fired. Participants must reload their weapons and the vehicle operator must keep the Humvee from getting stuck as the convoy moves.
For everyone involved in the training event, the most important thing was that they took away a greater understanding of military installation housing practices and policies and exchange information among one another to develop a greater understanding of their mission to serve Soldiers and families, Strange said.