CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 28, 2021) – After a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Camp Zama Army Lodging employees are now celebrating winning the fiscal 2020 Lodging Operation of the Year Award for medium-sized facilities.
“I’ve never seen a team work harder and deal with as much adversity as this team has over this past year,” said Rick Bosch, director of U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, which oversees the facility. “We’ve supported the Army mission for years, but never like we’ve supported it during COVID.”
For winning, the lodging team will receive $500 worth of food and nonalcoholic drink for a celebratory event, and each staff member will receive a pin and special award of $150. Additionally, Camp Zama lodging officials will receive a trophy and $15,000 to improve lodging operations.
Army Lodging facilities compete against each other in categories based on number of rooms they have, and Camp Zama lodging, with 108 rooms, including 12 distinguished visitor quarters, falls in the medium category.
While the facility’s nominating narrative has 13 bullet points and is too long to list here, it includes accomplishments such as increased employee training; improving its breakfast offering with the addition of waffles, fresh fruit and eggs; and accommodations the staff made in regard to COVID-19. Customers also gave the facility high ratings, with 96% saying they were satisfied with their overall experience; 95% rating employee and staff attitude highly; and 97% saying the service met their needs.
Bosch said that while Camp Zama lodging usually has a busy spring, summer and fall permanent change of station season, the operation’s mission changed when the facility began doubling as the only COVID-19 isolation facility on Camp Zama.
“At any given time we were dealing with isolation quarantine, [restriction of movement] and regular lodging users, and to manage that type of movement, especially with the protection of the force in the balance, was an enormous feat,” Bosch said.
All of the facility’s standard operating procedures had to change; employees required training on the new procedures, and they received guidance updates on a regular basis, Bosch said.
In addition, the facility’s occupancy rate was near 100% all year because people had to stay in Army Lodging for isolation, ROM or quarantine, Bosch said.
“Our team worked hard, very hard, the whole year in a stressful environment, dealing with the highest risk population that we had—the folks coming in from stateside—and they did it all and managed to be highly successful,” Bosch said.
It is also important to remember that lodging’s front desk never closes throughout the year, Bosch said, and the facility stayed open continuously throughout the pandemic. With a team of 27 employees, they never missed a beat.
Robert Kemble, USAG Japan FMWR business and recreation chief, said the team impressed him with their hard work and dedication throughout the year.
For example, when COVID-19 guidance changed, team members had no problem “rolling with the punches,” Kemble said.
“Most people don’t like change, but they just kind of embraced it,” Kemble said.
Also, when the lodging became so full they could not accept personnel who had moved out of their quarters and were waiting to travel to their new duty stations, the manager made arrangements with hotels off post that could accommodate them, Kemble said.
“Even though they weren’t receiving financial benefit for it, they were still helping the community,” Kemble said. “It’s just a number-one team.”
Howard Kuroda, USAG Japan FMWR business recreation officer, said one reason he believes the team was so successful this year is because the members have worked together for a long time and believe in teamwork.
“They genuinely care about what they do,” Kuroda said. “They are about the mission. They care about their jobs. They take pride in what they do, and they’re very passionate, which obviously shows, and that’s why we won this award.”
Bosch said this is the second time the team has won the award—they won in fiscal 2017—and the team also won the “Stars and Stripes Best of the Pacific” award for best on-base lodging on a small base in Japan for 2020-21.
Bosch noted that senior FMWR officials judge the Lodging Operation of the Year Award, and “Stars and Stripes” readers judge the “Best of the Pacific” award.
“It’s really affirming that the team is doing an excellent job when we’re getting one award from all the customers that come in, and another award from the senior leadership,” Bosch said. “Because those are very, very different perspectives and vantage points on the operation, and that just makes me proud that everyone can see what a great job they’re doing.”