“It’s a different kind of training ….”

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Story and photos by Staff Sgt. David Bruce, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs

617th MP/149th MEB hospitality training at Brown Hotel

Sgt. Kristopher Akers, of Richmond, Ky., with the 617th Military Police Company of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, reviews room checkouts and turnovers with Matt Mefford, of Louisville, Ky., at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., June 30. The 617th Military Police Company received specialized training coordinated with the Brown Hotel to prepare them for their mission of operating the Joint Visitors Bureau in Baghdad, which sees to the needs of visiting dignitaries. (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bruce, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

617th MP/149th MEB hospitality training at Brown Hotel

Staff Sgt. David Miller, of Louisville, Ky., with the 617th Military Police Company of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, slices tomatoes in the kitchen at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., June 30. The 617th Military Police Company received specialized training from the Brown Hotel in hotel management to prepare them to operate the Joint Visitors Bureau in Baghdad, which in addition to functioning as a hotel for visiting dignitaries; it also provides physical security for these visitors. (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bruce, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

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CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER CENTER, Ind. — Soldiers receive an impressive range of training to prepare them for deployments and the duties they will undertake while serving overseas. They go through an extensive checklist of tasks and drills that they must demonstrate proficiency in. Convoy operations, counter-insurgency doctrine, cultural understanding and combat operations are just the tip of the iceberg. But as any Soldier knows, there are those duties that must also be performed that go beyond duties normally associated with any of the military occupational skills. Case in point —

The Kentucky Army National Guard’s 617th Military Police Company, part of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, has been assigned the duty to operate the Joint Visitor Bureau in Baghdad for the Brigade’s imminent deployment to Iraq. The JVB is a military-run operation very similar to a hotel for visiting dignitaries in Iraq.

The units that run this hotel are responsible for the safety of these VIPs as well as handling the various protocols involved with the highest-level government and military officials. However, there are no field manuals or battle-drills for actually running a hotel. To prepare these Soldiers for the operation and management of the JVB, the 617th Military Police Company recently teamed-up with the prestigious Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky.

1st Lt. Darren Kinman, of Frankfort, Ky., executive officer for the 617th Military Police Company, said this is an atypical training environment for an atypical mission.

“We were given a specific mission of working the Joint Visitor Bureau,” said Kinman. “We’re an MP company; this isn’t a typical mission for us. We had some slots assigned to the company like front desk operations and maintenance.”

While some Soldiers with the 617th will be responsible for the operations of the Joint Visitor Bureau, two-thirds of the company will be assigned to personnel protection duties, said Kinman.

617th MP/149th MEB hospitality training at Brown Hotel

Spc. Bradley Harmon, of Corbin, Ky., with the 617th Military Police Company of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, repairs a faulty icemaker at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., June 30. The 617th Military Police Company received specialized training from the Brown Hotel in hotel management to prepare them to operate the Joint Visitors Bureau in Baghdad, which in addition to functioning as a hotel for visiting dignitaries; it also provides physical security for these visitors. (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bruce, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

“Our battalion operations coordinated for us to the Brown to come out and get some actual hotel training,” said Kinman. “We’ve had several training courses, but nothing has been able to replicate what has been going on at the Brown. We’ve gotten in depth with working with banquets, the front desk; dealing with issues of customers coming in with needs that can’t be replicated at a training site. At the same time, we have the experts here that explain to us how to handle the situations we may run across that we’re not used to.”

According to Kinman, this unique training opportunity will allow them to put a hometown touch to their mission.

“This all started (the planning) back in January,” said Kinman. “We wanted a Kentucky hotel with Kentucky Soldiers. The Brown hotel is one those things; it’s a significant landmark in the state of Kentucky. They took the ball and said they would be glad to have us and it developed into a really good training event. All of our guys have done an excellent job picking up the ins and outs of the jobs they will be assigned to.”

Removed from the ranges, wilderness and forward operating bases of Camp Atterbury, the Soldiers of the 617th Military Police Company began their training in hotel operations, sans the Army Combat Uniform. The person at the front desk is indistinguishable for other employees of the Brown. Except for the minute tells that would give him away as a Soldier, a customer would be oblivious to the fact that a Soldier was checking them in to the hotel.

“We didn’t want to interrupt their day-to-day operations, so we figured (Army Combat Uniforms) would be over the top. We coordinated with them on what would be a good uniform for us,” said Kinman. “There are a lot of people coming in and out; the hotel was completely booked the last two nights, so we didn’t want to completely overwhelm them with guys in (Army Combat Uniforms) all over the place.”

According to Spc. Bradley Harmon, of Corbin, Ky., communications chief for the 617th Military Police Company, working in the engineering section of the Brown is not that dissimilar from his traditional duties.

617th MP/149th MEB hospitality training at Brown Hotel

Spc. Brandon Mink, of Harrodsburg, Ky., with the 617th military Police Company of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, checks a guest in at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., June 30. The 617th Military Police Company received specialized training from the Brown Hotel in hotel management to prepare them to operate the Joint Visitors Bureau in Baghdad, which in addition to functioning as a hotel for visiting dignitaries; it also provides physical security for these visitors. (Photo by Staff Sgt. David Bruce, Camp Atterbury Public Affairs)

“I have to fix radios, computers and networking issues in my regular duties. It’s more specialized gear, but it’s still maintenance,” said Harmon. “I’ve been working with the engineering staff on general hotel maintenance.”

Harmon did not expect that his deployment training would involve fixing problematic icemakers.

“It’s a different kind of training than I‘ve ever done before. I’ve never heard of the Army doing any training with a hotel in general. It’s mission specific and really enjoyable,” he said.

Working behind the scenes at Louisville’s most prestigious hotel has been something of an eye opening experience for Harmon.

“I’ve learned a lot even from a civilian standpoint,” he said. “It’s remarkable how much goes into maintenance to make the Brown run smoothly. They have 16 floors and the amount of detail that goes into the checks on each level to make sure everything is running smoothly.”

The attention to detail and professionalism taught in the Army translated easily into the civilian industry. While it may be a cliché used by some, there is truth in that statement according to Harmon.

“What we do in the military is the same thing that mangers or employees do at their regular jobs,” he said. “They have a checklist that they go through; they have the sections, departments that they work in. They have a certain thing they do every morning or afternoon when they come in.”

The Brown Hotel is very much a customer service operation, said Harmon, and the key is flexibility and the training done here will ensure a successful mission in Iraq.

“You want to make sure all your guests are taken care of, you want to accommodate for their comfort. The Army teaches us that we’re Soldiers first and you have to do a mission no matter what your job is, everybody is versatile, everybody can be trained to do anything,” Harmon said. “It’s the same thing with the training that we’re doing here. I’ve never worked in a hotel before. I’m not part of a maintenance section in a hotel; I don’t take care of light fixtures or sinks at my normal job, but I’ve come here to learn how to do that. They’ve trained me to go forth and be open-minded and take care of that job overseas.”

Mickey Winebernner, of Louisville, Ky., engineering chief at the Brown, said having the Soldiers working with the staff was a good experience for the hotel as well.

“It gives us another set of eyes to see the operations and give input on maybe some new ways to do things when walking through the property,” said Winebrenner. “They have been working at the front desk, culinary and engineering maintenance. The Soldiers are well suited with attention to detail, follow through on tasks and the ability to follow orders.”

The opportunity to help these Kentucky National Guard Soldiers prepare for their deployment has been very positive, said Winebrenner.

“We are happy to be able to connect with these Kentucky Soldiers and help prepare them for their overseas mission,” Winebrenner said.

The partnership with the Brown hotel will help the 617th Military Police Company meet their unique mission.

“We’re proud to have the Brown welcome us in, and we want to meet their standards as well,” said Kinman. “We knew what our specific mission was, we knew we had Soldiers that needed specific training and what a better way to do it than be on the ground working with civilians in the industry that do it full time. Work with the best and you learn from the best. That was the whole mission and goal here.”

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