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In Our Opinion — December 2012

Who's Been Naughty or Nice?

Another holiday season is upon us, which means that Santa Claus is making his annual list and checking it twice.

As jolly old Saint Nick determines who's been naughty and who's been nice this year, we figured we would give him a little help in compiling those lists. As always, we have been keeping a close eye on all the developments in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) community for the last 12 months.

Let's start with those who have not been so nice to MWR professionals, specifically the folks in Washington who have severely impacted travel by restricting federal budgets for agency personnel to attend training conferences that are essential to their respective programs.

As a result of a series of memorandums and guidance issued in Washington during the past year, critical training opportunities and the ability to meet with industry and “kick the tires” have been taken away from lodging, club, catering and other military quality-of-life personnel who look forward to such learning occasions as a means of improving their operations.

The benefits these conferences provide are too numerous to mention. As an example, we attended July's Armed Services Food and Beverage Training Workshop, which fortunately did not fall victim to the Washington edicts. Those 200-plus food and beverage personnel who gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for the workshop received a steady diet (pardon the pun) of information on trends in the areas of nutrition, health and fitness in order to improve the offerings in their respective food and beverage operations.

Not only did the attendees hear from food and beverage chiefs in all services, they also heard directly from Charles Milam, SES, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy (MCFP), on what the Department of Defense (DoD) is doing to combat rising obesity rates in the military.

Conference attendees also met with food and beverage vendors at the trade show that took place during the workshop. The show encouraged one-on-one interaction between military personnel and vendors in order to learn about the latest food and beverage trends, products and services, as well as encourage purchasing of items that would benefit those they serve on a daily basis.

And now those opportunities are being severely curtailed as travel to these types of training events is eliminated.

We wish there were a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, but with sequestration or at least spending cutbacks on the horizon as 2013 arrives, there does not seem to be a lot of hope for a majority of these training environments to come back in full force.

On the other hand, once Santa cleans the coal dust off his hands, he should fill his sacks with presents for those who have been nice this year — namely all of you who do your best to coordinate programs and services throughout the year to enhance quality of life for service members and their families.

One really nice job of military family support recently took place in the lodging community, as four Navy Lodges in the Northeast that sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy not only housed families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the hurricane, but also took in first responders who aided in relief efforts in each devastated area.

“Nice” is truly an understatement here, and Santa should really be good to those MWR personnel and others who stepped up to the plate and provided shelter and sustenance for civilians as well as military families following the crippling storm.

We know that you as MWR professionals face an ongoing challenge to ensure that your activities are not negatively impacted by the current economic climate, and you continue to do a tremendous job.

May you have a joyous holiday season, and may 2013 be an even better year for you and the entire MWR community.