Summer PCS surge, pandemic make for strange bedfellows in Baumholder lodging facility

The Baumholder Lagerhof lodging facility was just gearing up for the beginning of the Summer Surge — the traditional military move season — when COVID-19 hit.

Lagerhof manager George Franklin has been with Army Lodging more than a quarter of a century. The last six months have been something new for everyone involved in the lodging business.

“There has never been anything like COVID-19,” Franklin said. “It changes your whole perspective of your business. This is more than just a tropical storm in a normal business day. This is a paradigm shift that came along and made us change all policies.”

Franklin said the Baumholder Military Community presents unique challenges not often found in the world of military lodging.

A Baumholder Lagerhof lodging facility housecleaning staff member checks her list of occupied rooms, which are color-coded by quarantined, non-quarantined and checked-out customers.

“Eighty percent of our business monthly is Soldiers and families PCSing,” he said. “Many other lodging facilities have more of a leisure travel and TDY customer base. Here, we have those boots on the ground that we know we’re going to have to provide for.”

The 45 rooms and two standalone houses that make up the Lagerhof are a mixture of single-person and family rooms. The Lagerhof has 14 members on staff and the facility has been near or at capacity since March.

“Everything changed,” said Martina Wagner, Housekeeping supervisor. “We’ve always cleaned very well, so that hasn’t changed. Now, we have sanitary gel everywhere for the customers and our food service has changed.”

The small dining area in the facility is now dine-in or carry out. A staff member will make a tray so the customer, who may be in mandatory 14-day quarantine, doesn’t handle food or appliances. Those who choose to sit at a table must fill out an information slip for tracing purposes, just as they would in any restaurant off post.

Wagner said there are two categories of customers every day; Soldiers and families leaving who don’t have to quarantine and those arriving who do.

“For those who are under quarantine, they can set their linens out in the hall and we’ll replace them,” she said. “Or, they will go sit outside for some fresh air for a while so we can clean their room.”

Franklin said he hasn’t had many issues with guests trying to break quarantine. He said most of the time, those who do try simply weren’t told by sponsors or their gaining unit what quarantine means.

“We hand out our policies to every one of the service members and their families, to include the sponsor, to let them know these are our policies during that 14-day quarantine,” said Franklin. “Here’s the things we do, here’s the things we provide and here’s how we want you to fall in line with that.”

Keeping the quarantined and the non-quarantined separated in the facility is a difficult chore, Franklin said. They try to keep the two separated on different sides of the facility. However, the summer surge sometimes made that impossible.

“We were full and we may have a family of six I need to move over to one side and a single Soldier to the other to make room. It was a chess game for a while,” Franklin said. “We had more families than singles so it caused us to really think about how to rearrange things. But, every one of our service members who have come through here have adapted so well.”

Franklin said none of his employees batted an eye back in March when he told them there would be customers who potentially could have COVID-19.

“None at all,” he said. “We can all read social media, watch the news and make up our own minds. We sat everyone down and made sure they understand the seriousness and they all came to work the next day.”

“Whatever we have do, we do, and we keep working. We wear masks, gloves and any other protections we need to. But, we’ve always done that,” said Lilo Peters, cleaning staff. “We’re Teflon.”

In June of this year, the Baumholder Lagerhof staff learned they won first place in the 2019 Army Lodging Operation of the Year — Small facility category, a feat Franklin chalks up to the staff treating each other, and the guests, like family.