Meet Lavon Brown

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. Lavon Brown has served in the reserves of the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard since 1994

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 Japan, London, Frankfurt; it's government travel, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. We help the soldiers on R&R and emergency leaves to get home."

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 Brown

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 Frankfurt 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 Alaska. "Growing up, my family would take trips to visit family in Chicago and Alabama and we would go camping in Rockies," he remembers. His time in the military allowed him to travel to Japan, and he's been stationed in Korea, 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."

Emergency Situations

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 care of."

He recalls speaking with a soldier stationed at the time in Iraq. "He had received serious injuries and had flown into Frankfurt, Germany," Brown says. "The Sato office in Frankfurt 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 San Antonio, TX. Because it was so spur of the 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.