Reunion Risk Management: Food & Beverage Minimum

Why should a military reunion use a professional hotel contract and event planning company? To start with, you want to avoid financial risk in hotel contracts. Outside of Room Attrition the greatest financial risk a group faces is with the Food & Beverage Minimum – the expected amount of sales from group meals and cash bars. The amount is always pre-service charge and tax, which can appear misleading in a contract. Unfortunately, individual members’ spending in the hotel’s restaurants and bars do not count towards the Group Minimum. Usually, hotels calculate the Minimum by multiplying the expected number of guests by the pre-service charge and tax menu price, and then add expected bar sales to that. For smaller groups the Minimum may be negotiated out of the contract altogether. It’s important to know that a hotel’s priority is to sell the rooms – so if you have 200 room nights, is it worth it for the hotel to haggle over a couple hundred-dollar penalty? For larger groups, hotels may insist on there being an F&B Minimum in order to block function space, which is fine if the Minimum is properly negotiated and easily met. AFR uses our own formula, that has been perfected over decades, to calculate a reasonable Minimum that we know is easily attainable for our groups.

AFR’s advice is to be conservative with expected numbers for group meal functions. Put a lower than expected number in the Function Agenda, as long as the space reserved is large enough to handle your hoped-for numbers. If you plan for a head table and color guard aisle, larger meeting space must be blocked. Surprisingly, most Hotel Sales Managers don’t know how much space is really needed for group meal functions. Also, most hotels do not assign specific meeting rooms in the Function Agenda portion of the hotel contract. A contract should ever be signed without meeting rooms being assigned so you can ensure you have exactly what you need. If not, there is no guarantee you’ll have adequate meeting space and the hotel will assign what they have available. Analyzing a hotel’s floor plan and capacity chart is essential to guaranteeing a group’s needs are met, from having a head table and color guard aisle to a stage, dance floor, and AV equipment.

Your experienced AFR representative will ensure that you have the correct amount of function space assigned to handle the group’s needs with as little financial risk as is possible. Get a professional on your side! Call or email Charley Dey at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com

Exclusive Veteran Interview: Reggie Horton

Sergeant E-5 Reginald “Reggie” Horton

Second Generation Americal Division

Like his father and uncle before him, Reginald Horton served in the U.S. Army’s 23rd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Americal Division. Formed from Task Force 6814 in 1942, it was deactivated in 1945. The 23rd Infantry Division was activated from 1954 to 1956 and took the colors of the Americal Division. It is the only named Division and the only one always activated outside the United States. Its soldiers spent most missions in the tropical bush and were accordingly known as “The Jungle Warriors.” Horton’s assignment was no different.

Entering the Vietnam War in 1969, he served as a private first class in A Co. 1/6 198th Light Infantry Brigade west of Chu Lai. “We patrolled from village to village through jungle, rice paddies, elephant grass and some mountainous terrain,” said Horton, 73. “Encountering mostly Viet Cong, and some North Vietnamese Army regulars, our platoon had several close calls from sniper fire, mine fields, booby traps and occasional fire fights. Caught in an ambush crossing a paddy dike, my assistant gunner right behind me took a bad one in the thigh and we had to call in the gunships. It turned out to be what was called a “million dollar wound” as he was sent home and eventually recovered. On another mission my platoon sergeant, a scout dog and his handler were injured by a “booby trap” suspected to be a hand grenade. My platoon sergeant suffered several leg wounds.”

Horton said patrols through the jungle were often hairy, but felt a little more comfortable with his weapon of choice, an M-60 machine gun. “It is ‘belt fed’, usually with 100 round belts that came in real handy, especially in free-fire zones where we had a mad-minute to rip up anything that moved. The enemy often travelled at night and we’d let loose and clean them up nicely.”

Horton and his fellow soldiers enjoyed some stand-down time that was spent mostly in the clubs and bars, but things got a little shaky as their tours were coming to an end. “We were looking to the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but even with extra precautions it was nerve racking. Everyone knew and heard about guys who were almost ready to begin packing for home, only to be wounded or killed.”

Horton left Vietnam in 1970 and was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia as an assistant instructor before being discharged and put on inactive reserve. Two years later he retired, was discharged as a Sergeant E-5, and received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Army Commendation with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Vietnam Service with 4 Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign with 1960 Device, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm and Good Conduct and National Defense Ribbons.

Following the war Horton worked in the insurance business and then in the power industry. A deep reconnection to the Americal Division began in 2008, when his uncle took him to an Americal Division Veterans Association reunion in Jacksonville, Florida. He had been a member of the ADVA since 1994 and was soon asked to run for the ADVA Executive Council, where he served for several years before becoming Junior Vice Commander and eventually National Commander in 2018. “I enjoy my duties directing and supporting the ADVA, but what I really like is seeing the members I served with and becoming friends with new ones,” Horton said. “In the early reunions I had the pleasure of meeting World War II vets who were then in their 80s and 90s. We’d hear stories of what they went through in both theaters of that war, the hardships and victories. I really admire the Greatest Generation.”

Horton’s two-year run as National Commander ended in June, 2020. He is also committed to service in his hometown of Roxboro, North Carolina, where he is a member of City Council, the Kiwanis Club, Elks Lodge and local chapters of the American Legion and Disabled Americans Veterans Association. “I’m proud to have served my country honorably and it’s a great privilege to be part of the ADVA. I also find it very rewarding to work with my local friends and citizens to accomplish good things for our community.”

 

Scott McCaskey is a contributing writer for Armed Forces Reunions, Inc., former Account Director at Goldman & Associates Public Relations and a former staff writer for the Virginian­ Pilot newspaper.

Finding The Most “Reunion-Friendly” Hotel

Armed Forces Reunions has been booking reunions nationwide for over thirty years now – and WE KNOW where the truly military reunion-friendly hotels are. It’s amazing that we’ve been working with many of the same hotels since the late 1980s, and in a couple cases even with the same salespeople! We’ve seen hotels grant all our wishes one year, and turn around the next under new management with policies not friendly to reunions at all.  New GMs are beholden to ownership and think they can change policies and create new revenue.  Often the changes have to do with hospitality room policy and allowing groups to provide their own refreshments.

Management turnover often results in scaring reunion business away – but they usually come to learn their mistakes.  We often find ourselves training new management and new sales staffs on hot buttons in the military reunion market as no other company understands the needs of reunions better than AFR.  The hospitality industry has one of the highest turnover ratios of any industry.  Since we’ve been around so long it’s easy for us to point to multiple past bookings with the hotel or hotels in that city.  We point out that reunion groups are consistent from year to year, fill hotel rooms on weekends (soft days in most cities), will adjust arrival/departure patterns to create a win/win for all parties, and above all that reunion attendees are respectful citizens that any hotel should love to have in-house.

Often times, this process can be the most time consuming and stressful for your group’s planner. What typically happens is they reach out to your chosen cities’ Convention Bureau, at which point they distribute your request to many hotels in the area. Now you end up with 5-10 hotel proposals, you may choose the lowest rate or the most appealing location, but do you really know how accommodating this hotel will be for your groups’ individual needs? Then when you move to contracting with your chosen hotel, the real fun and stress begins. Hotel contracts are filled with intimidating performance clauses, extra fees for everything under the sun, and language that you may have not even seen before. The worst thing that can happen to a group is being financially penalized because you didn’t meet room or meal requirements from the hotel.

There’s no reason to stress yourself out over this or waste your time reviewing countless proposals from hotels that will never meet your needs – AFR can direct you to THE most reunion-friendly hotel from our partner network in whatever city your group choses to visit – FOR FREE. Think of us as The National Reunion Bureau.

Call Charley Dey today for a hotel proposal at 757-625-6401 or email charley@afri.com

How Do I Start a Military Reunion Group?

Military reunions began back in the 1940s when WWII veterans that lost all contact with their brothers in arms after returning home wanted to renew that unique bond that is made between those that serve their country. Only they can comprehend this connection, and many veterans will not speak about their time in the service at all – even with family. Reunions quickly became the most effective (and fun) way to not only renew a sacred bond but also to help heal those men and women that made a sacrifice to serve their country.

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. (AFR) planned its first military reunion in 1988 and since then we have taken our groups to over 150 cities nationwide and put on some of the largest reunions that have ever taken place. Back then starting a reunion group meant writing to your branches’ head offices to obtain the muster or unit rolls from your vessel/division/squadron/etc. Then came the daunting task of going to your local library (where they have phone books for cities nationwide) and calling down the muster roll to find the correct ‘John Smith in Milwaukee’. We’ve seen reunions evolve throughout the years, be passed on to the next generation of heroes, and new groups emerge with each era of service. It seems like nearly every week someone new contacts AFR seeking guidance in how to start their first reunion. Nothing excites us more than to hear from the young veterans of the Persian Gulf War, War in Iraq, and War in Afghanistan wanting to start their own reunion associations.

Starting a reunion group today is fortunately much easier today than it was years ago, thanks to the internet. Most groups today begin on social media, usually with a Facebook page. All it takes is one or a few determined veterans to take control and get the ball rolling. It’s amazing how quickly former comrades can be found using social media. After finding a sufficient number of “members” and discussing the potential for having a reunion all that’s needed is a survey, which can be done using a number of tools such as Survey Monkey via email or a simple Facebook survey on your group page. Survey results are important when securing a hotel contract for your reunion. How many members are likely to attend? Suggest two or three cities for folks to vote on. How many nights to book (most groups start with three)? Will members stay at the chosen host hotel?

It is very important that your first reunion is a grand success so folks will spread the word and want to attend a future reunion. Initially, just getting folks together in a “reunion-friendly” hotel with a gathering area (hospitality room) available 24/7 is critical. A group banquet on the final night should also be planned at the hotel. At follow-up reunions you might consider planning tours and seeing the sights – to make it more vacation-like, and keeping spouses interested. Associations that have been holding annual reunions for many years typically plan a 4-5 day reunion with a couple days of local group tours planned, and ample free time to explore the area.

So now what? What cities should you consider? How will you find a suitable hotel? What do you need to be aware of in a hotel contract? This is where AFR comes in. Having planned thousands of reunions in over 150 cities over the past 30+ years we can steer you to a “reunion-friendly” hotel in the city you want to be. Get a professional on your side to negotiate the hotel contract for you – to ensure you have an adequate room block, the proper meeting space for a banquet, and most importantly that you have a great hospitality room where you are allowed to provide your own refreshments if you want. Reunions happen in the hospitality room!

Find out how we can help today by calling or emailing Charley Dey at 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com

Top Reunion Destination: Jacksonville, FL

Every Day is Veterans Day in Jacksonville

“Jacksonville is a military town, and we are very proud of it!”

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has taken military reunion groups to every corner of our great nation throughout our long history. The number of cities we have planned groups in is over 150 and still growing. When it comes to picking the best destination for your reunion group, AFR has been there and done that. Although we’ve planned events in almost any city you can name, there are only about 20-30 TOP REUNION DESTINATIONS that we guide multiple groups to every year. These cities offer a unique mix of military bases, sites, museums, attractions, history, and cultural diversity.

This month we are highlighting a truly “reunion-friendly” city in the Sunshine State, Jacksonville, FL. They take pride in being a military town, and being in Florida, you can be confident that all the restaurants, sights, and attractions will be open near full capacity for this summer and fall’s reunion season.

Nestled between the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and the sparkling St. Johns River, the “River City by the Sea” is the perfect destination for military families and groups looking to honor our nation’s heroes and enjoy a great time. Home to a longstanding military presence, Jacksonville has two navy bases, armed forces monuments, historic sites, thousands of active-duty military personnel, plus a vibrant arts and culture scene, an extensive park system, pristine beaches, delicious authentic cuisine, fun attractions, and great Southern hospitality waiting to entertain visitors from across the globe.

Naval Air Station Jacksonville is the birthplace of the famed Blue Angels. And at the beaches, Naval Station Mayport welcomes ships from all over the world. The annual Jacksonville Air Show alternates between the sandy shores of Jacksonville Beach and the impressive force of NAS JAX every October. Another annual event where their military heritage is celebrated and elevated is the Jacksonville Veteran’s Day Parade. Held in Downtown, it is the largest military parade in the state of Florida.

Visiting groups and Navy buffs can tour Jacksonville’s military attractions, cruise down the St. Johns River on a dinner cruise boat, explore the outdoors with guided fishing charters, hit the greens in one Jacksonville’s many golf courses, enjoy military appreciation day at THE PLAYERS Championship, cheer on the Jacksonville Jaguars, learn to surf or paddleboard in the 22 miles of beaches, kayak hundreds of miles of wetlands and marshes, enjoy a night at the Symphony, visit the Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center, and indulge in Jacksonville’s diverse dining and nightlife scene.

“Only in Jax” Military Sites

  • Duval County Veterans Memorial Wall- Downtown
  • Memorial Park- Riverside
  • The Lone Sailor Statue- Southbank RiverWalk in Downtown
  • The Museum of Southern History- Avondale
  • Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park- Northside
  • Jacksonville Maritime Heritage Center- Downtown

If your association has been on the fence about a 2021 reunion due to uncertainties with Covid and attractions being open, we encourage you to consider this Top Reunion Destination that is sure to deliver a successful reunion. Call or email Charley Dey for a hotel proposal now 757-625-6401 or charley@afri.com