Page 1


The Magazine of Military Housing, Lodging & Lifestyles

communities MARCH/APRIL 2011

New OSD housing goals page 8

Special Section: PDS XXIII in Review page 10

Innovative flooring ideas page 44

An Air Force donation sparks creativity and teamwork in New Orleans schools

Building Community Brick by Brick


B  uilding a Better Carpet Modular carpet tiles dramatically reduce carpet replacement costs as well as landfill waste at Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes. By Esther Perman


F  resh From the Floor Up New carpeting options can reduce both odors and volatile organic chemical concentrations. By Paul Woolverton

33 SPECIAL SECTION: PDS XXIII In Review 10 Top-Level Learning

Military housing professionals flocked to New Orleans to experience the annual Professional Development Seminar, where they listened in on informative sessions, participated in fundraising and networking opportunities, attended a robust trade show, and much more.

Service Days 26 Army 28 Navy 31 Marine Corps


I nnovation Underfoot Advances in the loose-lay vinyl flooring products industry have plenty to offer housing managers: easy installation, stain protection, scratch resistance, and more. By Diane Conti

33 Air Force 35 Coast Guard

Additional Coverage 38 Quality Service Lessons From Disney 40 Building Community, Brick by Brick 42 Moving With the “Moving Ranger”

2  Defense Communities



The Magazine of Military Housing, Lodging & Lifestyles

March | April 2011 u Volume 22, Number 2 u

communities A Publication of the Pro­fes­sion­al Hous­ing Man­age­ment Association


President’s Message n PHMA’s President Del Eulberg reports on the 2011 Senior Enlisted Leadership Panel.


OSD Perspective n New housing goals.




Easing the PCS Process To help lessen the expense of a permanent change of station, R&B Communications launched a free military classifieds online resource. The Web site, which debuted at PDS XXIII, aims to help service members buy, sell, donate, and connect at most installations around the world.

E  nergy Efficiency Double Standard


Chapter News n Thirty-five PHMA members joined the Cabrillo Chapter for its 10th annual quarterly chapter meetings and traveled throughout Asia in the process. Military Marketplace n Check out this go-to resource to find companies that provide products and services to the military housing and lodging industry.

60 Advertising Index 61 PHMA Corporate Sustaining Members

Discover ways to make windows, which can be energy zappers, into more efficient, energy-conserving tools. By Bruce Lang

Please send your articles for Defense Communities to Birgitt Seymour at NEXT EDITORIAL DEADLINES: July/August: April 29 September/October: June 30

ABOUT THE COVER Discover how the Air Force donated LEGOs to support local New Orleansarea elementary schools in this issue of Defense Communities. See page 40 for the full story.

Publisher Editor Managing Editor Contributing Editor Editorial/Production Asst. Art Director

Debra J. Stratton Birgitt Seymour Lisa Junker Sally Zakariya Teresa Tobat Janelle Welch

Publishing Offices Stratton Publishing & Mar­ket­ing Inc. 5285 Shawnee Road, Suite 510 Alexandria, VA 22312-2334 703/914-9200; fax 703/914-6777 Advertising Sales Manager Alison Bashian Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc. 800/335-7500; fax 440/232-0398 Editorial Office 544 Windspirit Circle, Prescott, AZ 86303 928/771-9826 phmadefensecommunities@ PHMA Office 154 Fort Evans Road, NE, Leesburg, VA 20176 703/771-1888; fax 703/771-0299 Executive Director Jon R. Moore Defense Communities (ISSN #1088-9000 USPS #004-502) is pub­lished bi­month­ly by Stratton Pub­lish­ing & Mar­ket­ing Inc., 5285 Shawnee Road, Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22312-2334, for the Pro­fes­sion­al Hous­ing Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, 154 Fort Evans Road, NE, Leesburg, VA 20176. PHMA mem­bers re­ceive this pub­li­ca­tion at the an­nu­al sub­scrip­tion rate of $30. Nonmembers’ annual sub­scrip­tion rate is $100. Send sub­ scription re­quests to Defense Communities at PHMA. Periodi­ cals post­age paid at Leesburg, VA, and ad­di­tion­al mail­ing offices. Defense Communities, ©2011, Pro­fes­sion­al Hous­ing Management As­so­ci­a­tion. All rights re­served. All con­tents of this pub­li­ca­tion are pro­tect­ed by copy­right; how­ev­er, they may be re­pro­duced in whole or in part with prior ap­prov­al of the publisher. Prior to photocopying items for educational classroom, internal, or personal use, or to request rights to republish an article, please request re­print permission from Editor, Defense Communities, phmadefensecommunities@ Unless otherwise stated, ar­ti­cles and ed­i­to­ri­als express the views of their au­thors and not nec­es­sar­i­ly those of PHMA, the editors, or the pub­lish­er. An­nounce­ments and ad­ver­ tise­ments in this pub­li­ca­tion for prod­ucts and ser­vic­es do not im­ply the en­dorse­ment of PHMA or any of its members or staff. Postmaster: Send subscription/address changes to: Defense Communities, 154 Fort Evans Road, NE, Leesburg, VA 20176 or e-mail:

Defense Communities magazine is designed to keep those who operate and manage the whole spectrum of military housing and facilities maintenance informed on the industry’s latest technology, products, and services. It provides a forum for members to share lessons learned, news and events, and training opportunities and updates.

March | April 2011  3

Building a Better Carpet

Lend Lease and InterfaceFLOR collaborate to develop flooring that saves time, money, and the environment By Esther Perman

44  Defense Communities



loors take a lot of punishment in any home. Just the normal day-to-day activities of walking room to room, outside in, up and down, can test the mettle of most floor coverings. Add to that any number of spills, stains, and pet accidents, and it’s a wonder that a surface that feels as good underfoot as a soft, cushiony carpet can survive at all. In fact, carpeting is in the line of fire more than any other interior surface and is most vulnerable to damage. Conventional carpeting has a very high casualty rate, and that is particularly evident in military communities, where families relocate frequently. Significant residence turnover plus normal wear and tear result in a relatively short life span for carpeting—approximately two to three years, according to Natalie Hansen, Senior Vice President Strategic Procurement for Lend Lease. Lend Lease is responsible for about 42,000 of the military’s housing inventory—building, leasing, maintaining, renovating, and managing communities nationwide. But, as Hansen explains, the real issue with traditional wall-to-wall carpeting is the financial burden it places on the residents, who shoulder the cleaning, repair, and replacement costs when they move out. Most recently, junior noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted service members have been the focus of Hansen’s team.

Smarter alternative “We had come to realize that our younger families were incurring some high costs when it was time to move,” Hansen said. “All it takes are a few kids and a pet, and the carpet is easily ruined. That can add up to anywhere from $800 to $1,200 on average.” While Lend Lease was evaluating how to save its residents from these undue costs, the company also was exploring new options for delivering more sustainable, eco-responsible housing and bettering its own “green” practices. “Disposal of the used carpeting and padding was providing us with a real dilemma,” Hansen said. “These old products tend to go to landfill, and we knew we had to wean ourselves from them and find a smarter, more eco-friendly alternative.” Lend Lease issued an RFP for a carpeting resource, and the one company that outranked competitors with its promised performance, cost savings, and sustainability commitment was InterfaceFLOR. Only one drawback: The InterfaceFLOR product was a modular carpet tile rather than a conventional rolled broadloom carpet. Tiles are more commonly found in commercial applications but are increasingly being used in residential projects. “Modular tile is wrongly perceived as ‘airport’ carpet that’s ill-suited for residential living,” said Hansen. “So we had a challenge to overcome this image and the inherent resistance that many of our base officials and their maintenance crews had about working with InterfaceFLOR.” A true collaboration was formed between Lend Lease and InterfaceFLOR to simultaneously develop an appropriate product that would meet residents’ needs and regional preferences

coast to coast and to map out the rationale for naming this brand with its modular tiles as the new floor covering supplier.

Cost savings The rationale was the easy part and, quite frankly, it is compelling. Just ask Ed Siebels, Director of Maintenance at Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes, one of the first Lend Lease properties to embrace the conversion to InterfaceFLOR. “The cost savings is astounding. A family may now only pay about $30 or $40 to replace the stained carpet when they move out,” Siebels said. “Or, even when they’re still living there and they need to replace a stained tile, it’s about $9. That’s a huge savings from the hundreds it was costing them for rolled carpet. Moreover, when the family moves out and we need to replace a tile or tiles, we can take them out, clean them, and reuse them. And, because the tiles are nondirectional, you can put that replacement tile in any which way, and it doesn’t affect the pattern. It always looks right.” Siebels said he’s put the tiles through his own personal test, and the stains always come out. He’s also tried bleaching tiles, and the yarns are unchanged, never fading or discoloring. The installation of the tiles also takes less time—an afternoon versus two days for rolled carpet, said Siebels, who bases this statistic on a three-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot house with carpeting in the living room, family room, and bedrooms. This is a critical consideration since a house must be turned over and ready in five days’ time from the day it’s vacated to the day new occupants arrive, and flooring usually is not the only work that needs to be done.

Sustainability The sustainability benefits are also impressive. InterfaceFLOR is considered a corporate pioneer in the practice. The company’s founder, Ray Anderson, wrote a benchmark book about the subject, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist, and many other major corporations look to InterfaceFLOR for guidance in charting their own green policies. But what raises the bar for Lend Lease is that the company, through its ReEntry 2.0 program, reclaims the old carpet coming out of the houses and diverts it from the landfill. The nylon that is recycled goes into producing other new carpet tiles. Fort Drum alone has kept more than 501,543 pounds of carpet from going to landfills since beginning to work with the new product in March 2009, said Joe McLaughlin, Lend Lease’s Project Director at the base. This is equivalent to more than 16 million aluminum cans, the waste generated by 299 Americans for one year, or 50 garbage trucks full of refuse. Inspired by these recycling efforts, Fort Drum’s flooring contractor, Colleen Bellnier, owner of Pine Camp Contracting, Inc., decided her company should do its share as well. She invested in a baler that allows Pine Camp to take the carpet padding it removes from a home, compact it, and ship it to a recycler who processes it for use in new padding. March | April 2011 45

By jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, Bellnier, who spent $15,000 on the machinery a year ago, has already saved an estimated $60,000 in dumpster fees—plus, the arrangement diverts 24,000 pounds a month from the landfill. Bellnier found that the baler also works well on the cardboard packaging for the InterfaceFLOR tiles so she’s recycling that, as well, at a rate of about 1,050 pounds a month. “Our core competencies are to be environmentally and economically sustainable, and the Lend Lease Strategic Procurement Group hit a home run with InterfaceFLOR,” said McLaughlin. “Reducing damage charges to service members at the time of their move out, positively impacting the earth, and influencing more of our suppliers to be more eco-conscious make this a win-win situation for everyone.”

Developing endurance In deciding on the right product for the military residences, the collaboration between Lend Lease and InterfaceFLOR became something of an endurance test. For more than a year, the LaGrange, Georgia-based mill and its designers offered up a variety of style, color, and construction options. According to Mike Hutton, Director of InterfaceSERVICES, the company presented about 20 samples in that period. The goal was to create a product that had a softer hand than typical carpet tile—a texture underfoot that’s expected of residential surfaces. What eventually evolved to everyone’s satisfaction was a loop construction resembling a Berber style, said Hutton. The

company also developed a thinner backing option for stairs specifically for Lend Lease. It is now offered to everybody. As for the new carpet tile series, it is called the Endurance Collection, well named for its longevity. Residents have a choice of three colors: a light cream color called Valor; a medium-brown cinnamon shade called Integrity; and a true, deeper brown called Bravery. But before Endurance was officially declared the “it” product, InterfaceFLOR went the distance in testing it. The company provided free merchandise and installation in one home at each of Lend Lease’s 13 military base locations. It amounted to more than 1,000 square yards, but it was well worth the investment. The feedback and comments from the residents after the first three months were unanimously positive, and Fort Drum was joined in its resounding support for the flooring by an additional Lend Lease project at Camp LeJeune. Hansen credits InterfaceFLOR for “sticking it out with us. We really put them through the wringer, but they were troopers. Yes, there is a higher capital cost of about $250 to $400 more per home with the tiles. But those costs are recouped in all of the other savings we’re experiencing and passing on to occupants. We had one senior officer visit a home with an InterfaceFLOR installation, and he asked why he can’t get it in his house. Who knows what’s next?” n For additional information, please contact Steve Arbaugh at


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46  Defense Communities

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Fresh From the Floor Up Improving indoor air quality begins right under your feet By Paul Woolverton


ome is where the heart is. A man’s house is his castle, for where shall a man be safe, if it be not in his house? The sentiment behind these familiar sayings may be true, but facts are starting to show that our homes may actually be bad for our hearts, and our castles may not be safe due to unhealthy indoor air. The EPA has estimated that levels of up to 12 common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are two to five times higher in houses than they are in outside air, regardless of the location of the house. VOCs are a broad category of chemicals that volatize to become a gas at room temperature and can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, and nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, and dizziness. Research also indicates that we spend 90 percent of our time indoors. That means 21.5 hours a day inside—even more for the young, the elderly, and those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease. Clearly, it is imperative to know all we can do to combat potentially unhealthy air. Federal regulations are one source of information. For commercial and government buildings, the U.S. federal government has developed regulations and recommendations to protect public health through the toxic airborne con-

taminants regulation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which can be found in 29 CFR 1910.1000 in the Code of Federal Regulations. Another resource is a recent residential guidance on indoor air quality published by the World Health Organization in its 2010 WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality. “Clean air is a basic requirement of life,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, a director at WHO, in the publication. “The quality of air inside homes, offices, schools, day-care centers, public buildings, health-care facilities, or other private and public buildings where people spend a large part of their life is an essential determinant of healthy life and people’s well-being.”

What’s that smell? The first thing most of us notice when we walk into any family housing, apartment, barracks, transient lodging, community center, or child-care facility is the smell. Of course, not noticing a smell would probably be best, but unfortunately, the most common odors—ammonia and pyridine—can be offensive and build up to create unhealthy environments. You’re no doubt familiar with ammonia, which is the major ingredient in any household cleaning product. But the odors created by pet accidents and diaper pails also have very high concentrations of ammonia. You may have thought, “They must have pets” when you entered someone’s house and smelled that tell-tale ammonia odor. You have also probably smelled pyridine, even if you didn’t recognize it. The residue of pyridine is what we commonly refer to as the smell of cigarette and cigar smoke. March | April 2011 47

120 100

Parts per Million (PPM)

Parts per Million (PPM)

Ammonia Odor Reduction

80 60 40 20 0 0 min

7 min

30 min

60 min

50 40 30 20 10 0 0 min

90 min

Untreated Carpet

OSHA 15-min Limit

Puralex/Magic Fresh Treated

OSHA 8-hr Limit

Even in low levels, these smells can be unpleasant if we are exposed to them for an extended period of time. Both chemical odors build up over time by being absorbed into furniture, draperies, and wallpaper. It is this buildup that can accelerate serious health risks in our homes. Today, we commonly combat unpleasant odors by masking them with perfumed sprays and candles. These attempts have no lasting effect and do nothing to alleviate the longterm health problems to which these odors could contribute. It makes more sense to reduce or eliminate the chemicals that cause the odor. Both OSHA and WHO guidelines indicate that a smell is noticeable when levels of the odor-causing chemical are as low as five parts per million (ppm) per cubic foot of air. OSHA regulations limit exposure to VOCs for both an eighthour work environment and a 15-minute short-term spike. In addition to these limits, WHO also uses long-term absorption totals in its guidance.

Odor reduction The key to addressing this issue could be right under our feet. Tests have shown that the use of an odor-reducing carpet could be all it takes to control uncomfortable odor and minimize the risk of long-term exposure. Leading commercially available odor-reducing broadloom and carpet tile products feature Puralex™ or Magic Fresh™ odor-reducing enhancements that dramatically improve air quality and are not cost prohibitive. All Puralex and Magic Fresh enhanced products have been tested by an independent laboratory to verify their odor-reducing capabilities to meet OSHA and WHO guidelines. In an independent test, identically constructed carpets, untreated and treated with Puralex or Magic Fresh, were tested under the same conditions and evaluated for the reduction of ammonia and pyridine concentrations in the air. (See charts above.) Tests for ammonia odor reduction showed that from a starting air-concentration exposure level of up to 100 ppm, 48  Defense Communities

Pyridine Odor Reduction


7 min

30 min

60 min

90 min

Noticeable Odor

the Puralex or Magic Fresh treated products reduced the ammonia levels to the OSHA 15-minute short-term exposure limit within seven minutes of initial exposure. The OSHA eight-hour ammonia exposure limit was reached within 30 minutes of initial exposure, and the OSHA threshold level of five ppm, where odor is considered noticeable, was reached within 90 minutes. Untreated carpet did not provide the rapid ammonia odor reduction and did not lower the level below odor-detection levels during the test. The results of the pyridine (cigarette smoke) test were even more dramatic. From a starting air-concentration exposure level of up to 50 ppm, the Puralex or Magic Fresh treated products reduced the pyridine to under the five ppm odor detection level in less than 90 minutes. The untreated carpet was unable to get the levels below the 15-minute spike standard set by OSHA and was still four times higher than the eight-hour standard after 90 minutes. Results like these surely weighed in on the trend of strict “no smoking” policies within public buildings and spaces. What these results mean for military housing is that we can start addressing the internal air quality issues within family housing, apartments, barracks, transient lodging, community centers, and child-care facilities by using something as simple as odor-reducing carpet. The odor-reduction feature will also increase the potential life span of the carpet with proper standard cleaning maintenance and with no change to standard manufacturing warranty. Everyone wants to live in a clean, comfortable, and safe home. For you, your family, and your guests, greatly reducing the harmful odors of smoke, pets, or newborns and toddlers will increase your enjoyment of being at home. You might never needlepoint a throw pillow that says, “Home is where the heart is … and where the odors aren’t.” But reducing harmful odors will lead to a healthier and more inviting place to call home. n Paul Woolverton is Government Business Manager at Beaulieu of America. Reach him at


Innovation Underfoot Vinyl loose-lay flooring products may be the right choice for your housing By Diane Conti


hen it comes to flooring, nothing stands still. The industry continues to make advances in product manufacturing, offering consumers such features as more realistic appearance, high performance, earth-friendly attributes, and more. Loose-lay vinyl products are not new to the industry, but advances make them a good choice for certain applications and customers. By definition, loose-lay vinyl products are not installed using full spread adhesives; instead, they lie loosely or “float” above the floor. Vinyl sheet and floating luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring— the focus of this article—are similar to laminate flooring on the market. However, vinyl sheet goods expand upon the woodlooks found in laminates and include products that look like natural stone. They are also softer and quieter underfoot than laminates. In addition to these advantages, vinyl sheet and floating LVT offer the distinct advantage that they can be installed over most existing flooring and subfloors with minor imperfections. These products are also an option when moisture is an issue, but testing should be completed to be sure new concrete is properly cured. Because loose-lay products can be installed over existing floors or subfloors, the installer’s job is faster. Removal or demolition of the old floor is eliminated, and floor preparation is minimized. Loose-lay products are excellent choices in areas with high turnover, such as dormitories and family housing. The flooring is not permanently glued to the floor, and removal is easy for quick remodeling. Although professional flooring installers are always the preferred installation method, maintenance personnel can become proficient in installing these products.

Vinyl sheet flooring Available in 6- and 12-foot widths, loose-lay vinyl sheet flooring offers such performance characteristics as stain protection, scratch resistance, and a protective urethane coating. Some styles offer antimicrobial protection. In addition, with 12-foot sections, there are few seams to

address. Sheet goods can be installed by a modified loose-lay process in which double-sided tape is used in high traffic areas, glued down with a releasable or permanent adhesive. Most backings on these products are now fiberglass, which offers a cushioning effect that may result in quieter floors. New to the market, Armstrong’s StrataMax™ is available in a “rock back” made from 70 percent limestone composite. Glass-back or rock-back backings offer stability, allowing the product to lie flatter and make installation easier. Backing stability is also important because flooring can expand and contract during weather changes.

Luxury vinyl tile and plank Most of the many variations of luxury vinyl tile and plank are installed using the typical glue-down method. Loose-lay or floating LVTs, however, use pressure-sensitive adhesive tabs that make the tiles adhere to each other and not to the floor. When selecting floating tile or plank, you should look for a product allowing enough “open time” to peel back and reposition the plank if there are any installation mistakes. Open time is the time allowed for the product to easily release the adhesive and reposition before pieces permanently adhere. After the product is allowed to set, repairs become more difficult. With a relatively easy installation process, floating planks offer water resistance and can be a great choice in moisturerich areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. You still need to test for moisture content to be sure concrete is cured. These products are offered with a protective wear layer and are scratch, stain, and scuff resistant. A film layer may also be present to protect against rips, tears, and gouges. Again, warranties differ by product and manufacturer. In short, loose-lay flooring has many benefits. The choice of flooring depends on many factors, but with all of the advances in the flooring market, there is definitely a flooring product made to suit your needs. n Diane Conti is Business Development Director of Continental Flooring Company. Reach her at dconti@continentalflooring. com. March | April 2011 49

c h a p t e r N ew s

Wish You Were Here Postcards from the Cabrillo Chapter’s voyage to Asia By Joe N. Fitts


e touched down in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2010, after a 14-hour flight. Some 35 PHMA members from the United States and overseas joined the Cabrillo Chapter for its 10th annual quarterly chapter meetings on a cruise ship. The next day, our tour of Beijing started with a visit to the Forbidden City, followed by a bus ride through Beijing and its outskirts to visit the Great Wall of China. The Forbidden City, home of Imperial China for 500 years, is a city in itself—720,000 square meters, 800 buildings, and 9,999 rooms. Later in the afternoon, we reached the 4,000-mile-long Great Wall. On foot, most in our group managed to climb the steep ascent to one of the towers. The third day in Beijing continued with a visit to Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of China. Standing in Tiananmen Square, focusing on the enormous picture of Chairman Mao in the center and his mausoleum to the rear, was breathtaking. We spent the remainder of the morning shopping for souvenirs and visiting the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the Great Hall of the People, and China’s National Museum. After lunch, we toured the Summer Palace, a former royal garden with more than 200 years of history. Later, we drove by several sites of the 2004 Olympic Games on our way to the port city of Tianjin to board our cruise ship. The second day of our 16-day cruise was

54  Defense Communities

spent at sea on our way through the Yellow Sea to South Korea. On the third day, we made our first port call at Pusan, South Korea’s primary seaport. We found the culture there to be a unique mix of old and new, with modern high-rise towers dwarfing ancient Buddhist temples.

Nagasaki and Shanghai On the fourth day, we docked at Nagasaki, Japan. Considered the birthplace of Japanese civilization, Nagasaki eventually evolved into the most westernized of Japan’s cities, where Christianity and European culture had a profound influence. It is also the site of one of the two nuclear detonations on Aug. 9, 1945. We visited the bomb site’s ground zero, as well as the A-Bomb Museum and the United Nations Cemetery. Now, 65 years after World War II, Nagasaki is a thriving and beautiful city. On the fifth day, we sailed the China Sea and held a chapter meeting in between the day’s usual ship activities. Early the following day, we docked at Shanghai. The site where the Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921, Shanghai is also where the People’s Republic of China created its vast commercial and industrial bastion—a busy city with tall skyscrapers and more than 13 million people. Our city tour included the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of the tallest structures in China. The next two days were spent at sea, where our activi-

c h a p t e r N ew s ties included onboard bargain shopping. We also heard lectures by leading scholars from universities in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada about the history, politics, and economy of Asian countries as well as their military history.

Hong Kong and Vietnam On the ninth day, we arrived at Hong Kong, a city that conjures up images of mystery and excitement. Modern skyscrapers and luxurious hotels hug the harbor. Narrow streets bustle with the activities of noodle vendors, fortune tellers, hair cutters, and bone setters—not to mention incredible shopping opportunities. Among these activities, we found time to visit the summit of Victoria Peak by cable car for a panoramic view of Hong Kong Island. Some in the group also visited Aberdeen, home to the island’s water people, while others concen-

trated on shopping. We spent our 10th day again at sea, with another chapter meeting. Sailing along the coast of Vietnam the next day, we docked off shore in Nha Trang, where we were greeted with sparkling bays, palm trees, warm waters, and white beaches. A scattering of French-colonial beachfront hotels and open-air cafés make up the heart of Nha Trang’s tourist district. The town itself is small, with fishing as its primary industry. Our visit in Nha Trang concentrated on shopping and viewing the elaborate silk embroidery shops. Just a short distance down the South China Sea, we docked next at the Port of Phu My, a two-and-a-halfhour drive from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the largest city in Vietnam. Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan city, Saigon has a racially mixed population and a myriad of national monuments, including many colonial

structures, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, completed in 1876; the French Colonial Post Office; and the Rex Hotel. I personally had the opportunity to dine at the Rex Hotel in 1966 during my tour in the Vietnam as an Army officer. It was a pleasure for me to revisit the area and sit in the exact room where I enjoyed a fruit dish during a break in the war some 44 years ago. One member of our group, Cabrillo Chapter member John Valdez, MC, was the last U.S. service member to leave Vietnam when the North Vietnam Army invaded Saigon in 1975. He was the last one who boarded the helicopter on top of the Embassy in Saigon, the subject of a famous photo. John has participated in many interviews about the experience and was sponsored by CNN News on a documentary trip back to Vietnam after the war. As a result,

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c h a p t e r N ew s on this trip, John was invited by the Vietnam Consulate General to visit the current Vietnam Consulate for a tour of the building, offices, and grounds. During our second stop in Vietnam, we toured the countryside to see the Cu Chi Tunnels used by the communist troops during the Vietnam War. We also visited the Mekong Delta. In Saigon, we went to the popular Minh Phuong Lacquer Factory and the famous former Tuo Dor Street, now named Dong Khoi Street. We had a Vietnamese-style lunch at a major hotel and were treated to a show of Vietnamese dancers with traditional music.

orchids on display. After a Chinese lunch, we were off to Chinatown for individual shopping. The tour ended with a visit to the scenic waterfront before heading to the airport and the long journey home. Look for information on the next cruise in the May/June and July/August issues of Defense Communities. n

Defense Comm Salsbury Ind

Joe N. Fitts is Housing Program Manager for Marine Corps Installation West at Camp Pendleton, California, Western Regional Director for PHMA, and President of the PHMA Cabrillo Chapter. Reach him at joe.fitts

Runs in: Mar/April, July/Aug, Nov/Dec

Thailand and Singapore On the 13th day, we were back at sea, cruising through the Gulf of Thailand. The following day we arrived in Laem Chabang, Thailand, the gateway to the wonders of Bangkok, the nation’s commercial, cultural, and spiritual heart. Our sightseeing included temples with giant emerald, golden, and bronze Buddhas. A highlight was a visit to the Grand Palace, once home to Thai kings. During the tour of the city, we enjoyed a traditional Thai lunch with cultural dances from the Thai royal court. Continuing our adventure in Thailand, we docked at Ko Samui, the largest of a group of several dozen islands in the southern Gulf of Siam. Some have called Samui the biggest coconut plantation in the world, and until the 1970s, life there revolved around the coconut and the income it generated. While it took only one hour to drive completely around the island, many of us took shore excursions. We could visit Buddhist temples, watch monkeys harvesting coconuts, or ride elephants. On the 16th day at sea, we held our final chapter meeting. Arriving in Singapore the next day, we toured the city and its Botanic Garden, along with the National Orchid Garden, which had more than 6,000

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60  Defense Communities

Defense Communities March April 2011  

The Magazine of Military Housing, Lodging & Lifestyles