Sunrise Lodge is the best little hotel in the Army

By Mark Iacampo, U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels Public AffairsFebruary 9, 2013

Best little hotel in the Army
Col. James E. Saenz, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr commander (far left) and Lt. Col. John J. Strange, Jr., U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels commander, present the 2011 Lodging Operation of the Year (small category) award Sunrise Lodge manager Joelyn Kna... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

HOHENFELS, Germany -- Hohenfels' Sunrise Lodge was recognized as the small facility Army Lodging Operation of the Year 2011 at a presentation ceremony held here, recently.

Col. James E. Saenz, Bavarian Military Community and U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr commander, presented the award, noting that the Sunrise Lodge accumulated nearly 300 positive ICE comments in 2011 and more than 260 in 2012.

"With this being a 2011 award, the question naturally arises does this institution still deserve this award, and the truth is they absolutely do," said Lt. Col. John J. Strange, Jr., U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels commander.

Strange said that following the lodge's most recent inspection, IMCOM-Europe inspectors reported that the Sunrise Lodge continues to exemplify excellence.

"It's a small lodge but they perform a big mission," Strange said.

Winning Army Lodging Operation of the Year is no small task. Every aspect of the lodge is tested and assessed, often by "mystery shoppers" without the employees' knowledge. The in-depth process covers 32 pages of standards from accounting to training to supply. For the final inspection, facilities are given two days notice.

"It's not like 'oh, we're having an inspection, let's get ready for it,'" said Rose M. Radank, operations clerk. "You can't change anything in two days. We just keep doing what we do every day."

"That's how Joelyn Knapek has made it. Her high level of quality, that's our standard," Radank added.

Knapek, Sunrise Lodge manager, is no stranger to the rigors behind the award having led the Five Star Inn at West Point to the top slot when she was manager there. She is quick to share the credit, though.

"It all has to do with my staff," she said. "You can lead people but they have to have it in their hearts."

Knapek's staff consists of just 18 employees, each cross-trained to perform their co-workers' jobs. But whether they work housekeeping, maintenance or the front desk, their real focus is on customer service.

"We hire for that, we train for that, we work for that," said Knapek. "Whether it's driving a guest to Nuremberg, picking up their children or finding a place for their dog, we are here to care for our guests."

Delivering that top-notch customer service can be difficult in any hotel, but the Sunrise Lodge faces the unique challenge of being located in six different buildings, some of them a considerable distance away.

"These people have to work significantly harder to meet the same standards because the hotel is so dispersed," said Stacye Downing, USAG Hohenfels Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director. "Everything from supplies to just taking care of guests is more complex."

The team really goes above and beyond every Tuesday when the Patriot Express bus arrives at 2 a.m. Though the lodge is supplied with after-hours check in lockers, the staff makes it a point to greet the guests personally.

"We made the choice the first time we heard a bus arrived and they had children and they were hungry," said Downing. "Then it was automatic -- we have to have someone here with bagged breakfasts."

Those departing on the bus aren't forgotten either and are sent off with packed lunches.

"They're on that bus for four or five hours, so we make sure they have a packed lunch and the kids have something to drink," said Knapek. "If it's snowing or raining, Bill Williams will go up to the other buildings and drive them down. It's just about caring for the people."

Knapek and her team are driven by a desire to give back to the Soldiers and their families who give so much to their country.

"I love people, and if we can make their coming to Hohenfels, or their PSCing or their stay here more pleasant in any way, than that's why we are here," Knapek said.