Housing seminar focuses on responsive customer service

  • Published
  • By Maj. Chad Gemeinhardt
  • Air Force Office of the Civil Engineer
Housing professionals and leaders from across the Air Force recently met in New Orleans to celebrate successes of the Air Force's housing programs, and reaffirm their commitment to providing responsive customer service and quality housing for Airmen and their families.

At the Professional Housing Management Association Professional Development Seminar held Jan. 17 through 21, military housing professionals met to share their knowledge and receive training that would help in their fields.

Air Force officials represented nearly a third of attendees at the seminar, which also included professionals from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

Air Force officials hosted their own service day Jan. 19, which allowed Air Force housing professionals to focus on unique Air Force topics and hear from the service's senior leaders.

The theme of the service day, "Responsive Customer Service: The Building Blocks of Our Community," highlighted the importance of being responsive to the needs of Airmen and their families.

In his keynote address, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy talked about the importance of taking care of Airmen and their families, and about how Air Force housing efforts affect Airmen's readiness, deliberate development and resiliency.

"The Air Force sense of community is what the secretary, the chief and I are focused on," Chief Roy said. "It's a follow-on to the Year of the Air Force Family, and an effort we took at heart."

Chief Roy talked about how building communities starts at home, and he described the kind of quality amenities being offered at family housing areas on Air Force bases as influencing Airmen and their families to live on the installations.

Many of these communities are being built and managed through the Air Force's housing privatization efforts.

Today's private partners are building homes on Air Force bases equivalent to what Airmen can get on the local housing economy, Chief Roy said.

"I couldn't say that, years ago," he said, emphasizing how far the privatization effort has successfully evolved.

Chief Roy also spoke about improvements being made for unaccompanied Airmen living in the dorms, and how adding Airmen dorm leaders has made a profound difference.

"This is the right thing to do for our Airmen," Chief Roy said.

ADLs provide dorm residents with leadership while in the dorms and advice as they transition out, he said. 

The chief stressed that ADLs should not replace unit leaders' responsibilities.

"Supervisors, first sergeants and commanders still need to be involved with their Airmen," he said.

Housing professionals also had the opportunity to hear from Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Byers, the Air Force civil engineer, and Kathleen Ferguson, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, who both spoke about the accomplishments and status of the Air Force's family and unaccompanied housing efforts. They also provided an outlook on these efforts and how they will help improve the quality of life for Airmen and their families.

"We're not only continuing to move forward to provide the best housing and dorms for our Airmen and their families, but also providing the best customer service and responsiveness," General Byers said.

During the course of the Air Force service day, housing professionals and project owner community managers attended a number of courses and seminars focusing on customer service, operations and development of Air Force unaccompanied housing, military family housing, and privatized housing. To finish out the week, a housing privatization workshop was also held to focus discussion on the Air Force's privatization efforts with training for housing professionals. This joint effort was an excellent platform to expand attendees' knowledge of housing privatization and share best practices and guidance on establishing and sustaining 50-year partnerships.

The Air Force wrapped up its presence at the PHMA seminar by taking the opportunity to give back to the New Orleans community. Earlier in the week, seminar attendees visiting the Air Force's Housing trade-show booth had the opportunity to learn how teamwork can help build thriving communities by helping to build a small community using toy building blocks.

On Jan. 20, General Byers and Terry Edwards, the director of the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment, donated the toy building blocks to the Louisiana Recovery School District, where they will be enjoyed by local students.

"Helping build local communities is just as important as our efforts to build thriving Air Force communities at our bases," General Byers said. "We are a major community partner. I hope our donation will inspire the next generation of New Orleans' leaders to build strong communities."