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Meet Lavon BrownMay 28, 2007 By: Dan Butcher Travel Agent
This award-winning soldier/agent books travel for the U.S. military
Lavon Brown (his given name is David, but he goes by his middle name Lavon), a senior travel counselor for San Antonio, TX-based Navigant Sato Travel, is not your typical agent. He worked at Travelocity before leaving for college, and has served in the reserves of the U.S. Army and Army National Guard since 1994. After graduating from Texas Lutheran University, he started working for Navigant Sato Travel in 2004.
Brown provides 24-hour customer service to military and
government personnel for leisure travel—and in emergency situations. He
coordinates flights, car rentals, train itineraries and hotel accommodations
for soldiers, and he's received numerous outstanding customer service awards.
"I'm working under the International Service Center
(ISC) of Sato Travel," Brown says. "I work with soldiers in
Marines. We help the soldiers on R&R and emergency leaves to get
It may not be a typical niche of the travel industry, but
it's a rewarding one. "It's very challenging," Brown says.
"We're a 24-hour operation. You have emergencies happening all over the
world...one of our challenges is the time differences." Another major
challenge is the government's budget restraints. "We have to keep it under
a government-imposed per diem." Lavon
Sato's ISC has about 20 agents in the call center, plus
tele-commuters handling calls from home. "Government travelers who are on
orders will call us and say, 'The office in
is closed,' but they need to travel immediately; they'll fax us their info, and
we'll book everything for them."
His company books travel worldwide, and he's traveled all
over the States, including
"Growing up, my family would take trips to visit family in
we would go camping in
His time in the military allowed him to travel to
and he's been stationed in
which is his favorite destination so far. "It was completely
different," he says. "I had never lived abroad, and I got to
experience living in another country."
He's also used to dealing with people calling under duress.
"I enjoy helping people when they get caught in emergencies, when I know
that we're their last resort," Brown says. "It's a good feeling
knowing that you're doing everything you can to make sure the troops are taken
He recalls speaking with a soldier stationed at the time in
had received serious injuries and had flown into
Brown says. "The Sato office in
was closed and I took the call. The sergeant that called and spoke to me stated
that they had a soldier who has to get an immediate flight out to Walter Reed
in D.C. and then would later proceed to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical
Center (BAMC) in
moment, a travel order had yet to be generated. Finding flights was difficult,
as a lot of them were already sold out, but I was able to find a flight and get
them into D.C. after about 30 minutes of continuous searching," Brown
continues. "I then had to call an emergency travel officer and advise him
of the situation. Under the circumstances, we were able to get the traveler and
his escort flights at a moment's notice." Talk about pressure on the job.
For Brown, though, it's just another day at the office.
"All of the agents here receive calls that require
immediate assistance," Brown says.
"Sometimes they are very emotional situations and I
believe that most of the agents here feel as though they have an added
responsibility to assist the travelers in any way possible considering that
they are in a war zone and have the added pressures of dealing with life away
from their families."
That's a pretty heady level of responsibility, which Brown
embraces as a rewarding part of his job.