FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Aug. 30, 2011 -- The Installation Management Academy, featuring the Maj. Gen. Robert M. Joyce Family and MWR School and the Installation Management School, is open for business in San Antonio.

As part of Base Realignment and Closure, the Army's Morale, Welfare and Recreation academy relocated this summer from Fairfax County, Va., to historic Fort Sam Houston, an Army stronghold since 1876.

"We started designing this [building] years ago and have worked with it all the way through the design process, and we're very pleased with the outcome," said Patricia Tucker, who arrived July 5 as director of the Maj. Gen. Robert M. Joyce Family and MWR School. Col. Matthew Margotta is commandant of the Installation Management School.

Courses began Aug. 1 at the new facility. Four classes already have graduated, and the academy should be fully operational by Oct. 1. Most of the courses last only one or two weeks.

About 70 percent of the staff relocated from Northern Virginia to San Antonio to help keep the academy's ever-evolving curriculum current with the needs of today's evolutionary Army.

"Our staff just got here from Virginia a few days ago," Tucker said.

The state-of-the-art facility is one of the newest on Fort Sam Houston, which has attracted multiple requests from the community.

"Everybody wants it for their change of command [ceremony], for their pot-luck lunch, for their wives' club meeting, for their town hall, so people are certainly aware of the facility," Tucker said.

The Academy, however, is a place for higher learning among Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation employees and aspiring garrison commanders.

Her next desire is for everyone on Fort Sam Houston and around the Army to take advantage of the academy's opportunities.

The academy offers more than 100 courses through online and instructor-led classroom formats. Forty courses have received college credit recommendations from the American Council on Education.

"We've made inroads with the garrison commanders and we've done a lot of marketing," said Tucker, who noted that that more people have become aware of the academy during the past two years.

Patti Scalf, an assistant director at the North Post Child Development Center at Fort Belvoir, Va., currently is enrolled in the Family and MWR Program Management Course at the academy. An Army spouse for 23 years, Scalf served two years as the Child Development Center director at Fort Drum, N.Y.

A teacher by trade with grown children ages 22 and 17, Scalf has experienced many aspects of Army Family Life, including how to handle the deployments of her husband, who has served on active duty and with the Army National Guard. While at Fort Drum, she began working with Child and Youth Services and became passionate about the programs.

Scalf expects to expand her knowledge of the programs at the academy.

"I hope to get a lot more of the business end of it, and being able to actually run it as a business," she said. "My background is education, so as far as programming goes, I'm very comfortable with that part of my position as assistant director. But as far as the business end of being able to run it and be sure that we follow the budget, I'm getting a lot of good information on how to do that and set up and action plan and those kinds of things."

After only four days of class, Scalf already was impressed with the academy.

"This is very nice," she said. "I like the color schemes with all of the Southwestern colors, and all of the equipment and technology is very up-to-date. We all had computers issued to we came in.

"The training has been excellent so far. I go back every evening and think, 'OK, I can use this in this part of my job.' It's very applicable, very useful," she explained. "The instructors have been very informative. They obviously know the material they that are teaching and they have brought in some guest speakers who are very good at presenting their information."

Scalf suggested that the course would be good for all MWR employees, particularly those in the Management Training Program.

"I've done some partnerships with different programs, but really as far as the scope of Army MWR, I did not have an idea," she said, "and I've been with MWR now for almost four years.

"This course has provided a very good, broad perspective of what MWR does and how it relates to the whole mission of the Army," she continued. "It's given us some tools that we can use when we're planning our activities and programs."