Garrison Wiesbaden housing program saves money and improves wait times | Article
WIESBADEN, GERMANY – Customer service is a top priority at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Housing Office. To help incoming service members be better informed in advance of attractive housing options, a new program has been introduced. The “Plane to Pillow” program was born to help preserve the Army’s resilience capabilities, especially in the context of the endemic COVID pandemic in 2020. The program has also saved the garrison 1.4 million in 2020 and $1.8 million in 2021, a welcome side effect.
As the COVID pandemic really took off in the spring of 2020, local quarantine regulations in Germany also got stricter. For incoming soldiers and their families, this meant two weeks of quarantine in accommodation in Wiesbaden immediately after arrival. As a result, the Wiesbaden Army Lodge became very busy, very quickly.
“Too crowded to achieve the desired quarantine effect – while providing guests with all the comforts they deserve,” said Donald Meyer, housing manager at the garrison public works branch, of how he came up with the idea for his new program.
“It took us about 30 days on average at that time for families to move into their homes – today it’s three at most,” says Meyer.
A lot had to happen for this massive change. After a complete overhaul of the accommodation organization itself, there are now three ways to quickly access the accommodation of your choice.
As a first option, incoming service members can contact the accommodation directly by email. Housing staff will respond directly and send an information package to the service member. Once they provide us with the necessary information, such as PCS orders, completed housing application, and flight dates, housing will contact the service member’s new unit. The unit will assign a sponsor, who will act as the direct point of contact for the incoming service member and their family. The sponsor in turn works with the housing office to review available housing units that meet the needs of the service member and their family.
The sponsor then shows these housing units via online video chat via Facetime or other platforms, directly to the service member. These help the service member view accommodations and make a selection, while still in the United States.
“The sponsors have done a great job showing the homes, acting like a real estate agent, while providing vital information and showing the amenities of the homes and the surrounding community,” Meyer summarizes from his daily work.
The second path to housing is that there is already an existing contact with the new unit and sponsor. In this case, the sponsor contacts us with the housing needs of the family he is sponsoring. If the appropriate documents are already available, we hand over our housing proposals to the sponsor and the process takes place as quickly as described above.
The third option is when we receive a “win list”. With this list, housing can accurately determine who, where, and when PCS movers are arriving, allowing housing to prepare well in advance to meet incoming needs.
“As we know, our residents are really satisfied with this service. When everything is working properly, the service member will have their new mailing address, new residential address, TV and Internet on, and an ACS welcome box already at home. So we created a win-win situation for all parties by taking care of families and saving the military money,” Meyer said.
With over 15 years of experience as the Army Housing Chief in various locations, Meyer has worked tirelessly to ensure garrison housing continues to evolve. Whether it’s organizational structure pivots, due to a global pandemic, or capitalizing on the availability of updated video technology – Meyer’s “Plane to Pillow” program has improved the way incoming staff acquires enough accommodation upon arrival here in Wiesbaden.