By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetFebruary 4, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Meet Nina Saeli. At the Villages of Benning welcome center, she works daily to handle the questions and concerns of people who live on post.
Saeli PCSed here six years ago as the executive officer for 14th Combat Support Hospital. After retiring last year, she still wanted to be involved in helping the military community. That's how she became the Residential Communities Initiative military liaison, where she's been supporting Soldiers and their families since October.
"My main job is to work with Soldiers and families who live on Fort Benning who have issues with housing, and I work with a property management team of Pinnacle to resolve those issues," Saeli said. "I (also) assist the chain of command in understanding where they can go and whom they can speak to when they want to assist a Soldier with a housing problem. And I work with rear detachment chains of command when the families of deployed Soldiers have housing issues."
"Issues" can be anything from unresolved maintenance problems to educating residents on Pinnacle housing policies, she said.
But Saeli emphasized she is not the first stop for all housing problems.
"I'm not a complaint center. I'm here to make something happen if something needs to happen," she said. "If residents feels they have an issue, the first thing they need to do is contact their community manager. Community managers can resolve most issues if they know about them. Then, if the residents don't feel their issues have been adequately resolved, they can come to me."
Saeli also works with Pinnacle if it has a problem with a resident that may result in eviction.
"I really view myself as an honest broker," she said. "There are a lot of ethical decisions I have to make. There are sometimes Pinnacle is correct in its view and there are sometimes the resident is correct ... and it's my job to develop and present a fair solution to both parties. It's actually a win-win situation for the Fort Benning housing project."
If residents can't resolve their problems through management and have to contact Saeli, they should be prepared to present clear facts.
"I need dates. I need names. I need specifics on occurrences. It helps me to help them when I have this information from the beginning," Saeli said. "Pinnacle is very receptive to suggestions on how to improve their systems. So, if I get complaints that are valid and factual, then I can use that data to assist Pinnacle in their business practices."
After 19 years of "taking care of Soldiers," Saeli said she enjoys interacting with and supporting Soldiers in her current role.
"I work because I want to work," she said. "When you've been in the military as long as most of us have who retire ... it's not just a job: it's a community; it's your family. I think my background in the military is extremely beneficial to what I do because I understand the processes and the housing management system, and I also understand what the Soldiers have to deal with."
Saeli's office is located in the welcome center at 601 Lumpkin Road. Her office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. If you've contacted your housing manager and still have a concern, call her at 706-545-3009. For more information, call 706-685-3939.
What Soldiers are saying:
1SG Ted Pearson, 209th Military Police Detachment, worked through a housing issue on behalf of one of his Soldiers two weeks ago. The resident needed to move because of an issue with flooding, and Saeli helped expedite the process, Pearson said.
"She kind of links the military personnel to the civilian contractors who are handling our housing," he said. "It gives us a conduit to talk to them to work out the issues. She's obviously enthusiastic about what she's doing, and it's good to have a good advocate out there who's looking out for Soldiers and the contractors as well."
CPT Brian Miller, a resident of East Main Post Village, said he contacted Saeli after he had made several calls to Pinnacle to request new weather stripping. He and his wife first called maintenance in November, before the start of the cold season, but five weeks passed without a remedy.
"So we went over and talked to (Saeli) and of course she was able to make a phone call ... and immediately made sure the weather stripping issue was resolved," Miller said. "Nina's been our bridge. She's very friendly - beyond just customer service. She wanted to see that our needs were met. She makes it happen."