Veteran Transition Spotlight: Southwest Airlines' Reecie Howard
Customer Service Supervisor II, DCA
Airline Customer Service Agents (CSAs) are trained to see the story behind every situation. A boarding pass may represent a vacation of a lifetime and a bag could contain an irreplaceable memory. Yet in the midst of a hectic travel day, we fail to remember that the employees who make travel possible have a story as well. In just two and a half years at Southwest Airlines, Reecie Howard has touched customers and co-workers alike. She is known within the Southwest family for helping customer travel stories end happily, yet her story is where the triumph and true inspiration lies.
Reecie started her career with the desire to be different. She grew up in a military family, with Navy and Army roots. After a year playing volleyball at the University of South Carolina, Reecie followed her heart back to the military roots, but when she joined the Marines she began a path unique from her family’s.
After achieving her original goal of becoming an E7 (Gunnery Sergeant), Reecie continued to rise in the ranks, and eventually joined the top 1 percent as she became an E9 (Master Gunnery Sergeant). In December 2013, after 30 years in the Marines, Reecie returned to the East Coast to be with her family and begin her next chapter at Southwest Airlines.
In becoming a CSA agent, Reecie was questioned about her new career choice because of the change in her pay and status. She held firm to her belief that if you chase money you will never achieve happiness, and remained focused on self-fulfillment through leadership and customer service. With that outlook, she snagged a CSA position with Southwest Airlines at Washington Dulles International Airport. One year later, Reecie moved to Ronald Regan Washington National Airport to take on a Supervisor position.
Airport operations have to run just as smoothly as the planes they funnel passengers to. A lack of structure creates turbulence that can ripple through the entire operation. Reecie ensures that her Customer Service Agents retain structure in each job function they perform. A controlled frame of mind enables rational, efficient reactions and a positive customer experience.
One of the Marine’s fundamental philosophies is to “never leave anyone behind.” Reecie brought this phrase to her Southwest family, and lives by it each day. She respects her employees and asks for the same in return. She stays true to herself and does not change based on the situation she is placed in. Reecie retains integrity and accountability outside of business hours. She does not hesitate to extend her day if her station is swamped with travel chaos.
Honor, Courage, Commitment
Reecie utilizes her workplace to honor her past and those who defend our country. She is a lead supervisor for Honor Flights, an organization who flies veterans from across the country to Washington D.C. Reecie reminds customer service agents that the men and women they are assisting are the reason for our freedom.
A successful Customer Service Agent operates with the courage to tackle any situation. Reecie has taught her employees to step back and put themselves in customers’ shoes. A balance of courage and respect facilitates successful customer communication.
Whether she is assisting a coworker or driving lost luggage to a frazzled marathon runner, Reecie demonstrates unparalleled commitment to her job. Yet it is her unwavering moral commitment that has inspired coworkers, customers, and the entire Southwest family.
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