Two Army lodging facilities in Europe have earned the right to call themselves the best the service has to offer — until next winter.

The Ederle Inn in Vicenza, Italy, and the Tower Inn in Grafenwöhr, Germany, were selected recently in the Army’s Lodging Operation of the Year Award competition for 2003. Vicenza won in the large category and Grafenwöhr was honored in the medium category. Other winners included: Fort Belvoir, Va., in the supersize category; and Camp Carroll, South Korea, in the small division.

Ron Witcher, the Installation Management Agency-Europe’s lodging supervisor, said the maximum number of finalists, three, from Europe were nominated for the Army-level award. The Hilltop Hotel in Stuttgart was also nominated in the medium-size category.

“[The competition] is pretty stringent when you get to that level,” Witcher said of the judging.

The Hilltop won’t have to worry about competing against Grafenwöhr next year. Individual facilities have to wait two years to re-enter the competition after winning.

It’s the third time that the Tower Inn has won in recent years. General Manager Norma Grice-Koller said the facility was also named best in 1996 and 2000.

“I guess it must mean something we’re doing right,” she said.

Actually, many things right. The general managers of each facility turn in self-evaluations of their facilities. Teams from outside their area then inspect the facility and judge for themselves.

“They don’t just look at your facility,” Grice-Koller said. “It’s customer service, financial performance, many other things.”

David Sherrick, general manager for the Ederle Inn, said there are hundreds of items to evaluate. Like Grafenwöhr, the facility at Caserma Ederle scored well on many of those. It’s also the third time that Vicenza has received the award in recent years. It also won in 1995 and 1998. Both of those were in the medium category before an expansion in 1998 pushed it up a level.

Sherrick attributed the award to “lots of hard work.”

Vicenza is one of five facilities in Europe classified in the large category. Every other Army lodging facility in Germany, Belgium and Italy are either in the medium-size or small categories. There are no facilities large enough for the super category.

The Ederle Inn and Tower Inn each received a cash prize for winning the award and all hotel employees were given $100 bonuses.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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