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131st Airmen ensure readiness, responsible resource management through lodging

Tech. Sgt. Tara Jones, left, 131st Bomb Wing Force Support Squadron services management and programs assistant, and Master Sgt. Rayna Scott, acting 131st BW FSS services superintendent, look over a lodging roommate spreadsheet May 26, 2015, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The spreadsheets are sent to hotels so Service members of the 131st BW Missouri Air National Guard are accommodated during their training. Note: Spreadsheet blurred for security reasons. 

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jazmin Smith)

Tech. Sgt. Tara Jones, left, 131st Bomb Wing Force Support Squadron services management and programs assistant, and Master Sgt. Rayna Scott, acting 131st BW FSS services superintendent, look over a lodging roommate spreadsheet May 26, 2015, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The spreadsheets are sent to hotels so Service members of the 131st BW Missouri Air National Guard are accommodated during their training. Note: Spreadsheet blurred for security reasons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jazmin Smith)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Behind the scenes of every monthly Missouri Air National Guard drill at Whiteman Air Force Base, a small crew of Citizen Airmen work to ensure hundreds of their wingmen receive proper lodging in the most cost-effective way possible.

For the Airmen working on lodging and related issues, customer service is a key component of their service in the Guard, said Master Sgt. Rayna Scott, acting Services superintendent.

"We want to make Airmen's lodging experience as easy and as seamless as can be while they're here," Scott said. "We are constantly working on improving the process, we aren't stopping. We are going to take any concerns or complaints into consideration very seriously."

Having a single point of contact removes the stress of finding a room for 131st Airmen, leaving the members free to focus on their missions, Scott said. For most Airmen, their only interaction with the lodging process is simple: every month, they make a quick five-minute toll-free phone call to make a reservation. What seems like a simple task for the individual Airman is actually a much more complex process behind the scenes.

At the beginning of each fiscal year, as soon as the Services office gets the drill and annual training schedule, they start contacting hotels to set up room blocks to reserve rooms for members. Those rooms are then put into the Air Force's Automated Lodging Reservation System so members can make their reservations.

Once the members make their reservations, the Services Airmen send reports to each hotel, along with a rooming spreadsheet on who needs to room with whom.

Lodging staff ensure Airmen of similar ranks are placed in rooms together. Additionally Airmen can request a roommate and lodging will list that in the roommate listing they provide to the hotels.

In addition to ensuring Airmen are ready for drill, the office is responsible for ensuring the 131st is using money as efficiently and effectively as possible, said Tech. Sgt. Tara Jones, management and programs assistant. By ensuring the government rate for rooms, the Services section is able to save taxpayer money. At the same time, the system ensures that each month, the local economy can count on thousands of dollars coming into the community. In the second quarter of 2015, lodging brought more than $70,000 to the local Whiteman area.

"We cannot obligate government funds without verification, which is why it is so important for the members to make their reservations through the reservation system," Jones said. "When I receive a bill from the hotel I am ensuring that the member did actually stay at the hotel and were on a drilling status so they do not pay for their room out of pocket. From there I submit a purchase request to the hotel which is a part of accounting for everything that we spend."

Their team recently brought on a new member, Airman 1st Class Mia Bright. Bright said she was surprised by how much effort goes into a process that many believe is seamless, and that she looks forward to being a part of the Services lodging team.

"Coming into this, I didn't expect there to be so much to it because you think it's just assigning someone to a room," Bright said. "But everyone is really important to the whole process. People don't always really put that into perspective."