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Inexcusable (update)
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, April 26, 2008

It is things like this which just burn me up. As far as I'm concerned this is inexcusable.

Here's a video from an obviously angry father whose son is serving with the 82nd Airborne Division. First watch the video:



Those are the same barracks/company headquarters that I was in over 35 years ago when I served with the 82nd. The narrator has been told they were built in the 40s, but as I remember it, they date from the late 50s or early 60s. That's not really relevant to the point that they, as he documents, are in abysmal shape.

Abysmal.

But they are old buildings.

I already know the excuse as to why they're in the shape they are in. With the building of new barracks, the older ones have had the money used to maintain them cut off. They'll be condemned and destroyed. And that's fine, if no one is going to live in them. It makes sense. Why maintain something you're going to condemn and destroy?

But for goodness sake, you don't then put soldiers, whether coming back from a combat tour or not, into facilities like this.

I remember setting up a my newly formed infantry AIT company at Sand Hill at Ft. Benning back in the '70s. We were housing them in WWII wooden barracks. We spent months having everything cleaned, painted, modernized as much as possible to make them minimally livable before the first soldier set foot in them.

What you see in this video, especially that last picture, is abominable. What happened to minimum standards of health and sanitation? Mold? Open sewer pipes? Peeling lead-based paint? I'd rather live in a GP Medium outside than that abomination.

Who made the decision to put these soldiers in barracks in that shape to begin with? It just boggles the mind.

Thankfully there has been some reaction:
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole said Dole’s staff is contacting Fort Bragg and Pentagon officials today in response to a just-posted YouTube video that depicts soldiers living in deplorable conditions in a base barracks.

The spokeswoman, Amy Auth, said Dole’s office was unaware of the video until The Fayetteville Observer asked for a response this morning.

“We are certainly looking into it,” Auth said, noting that Dole has called for accelerated funding for new Fort Bragg housing.

The YouTube video shows paint peeling and falling from exposed pipes in the barracks, mildewed ceilings and showers, a toilet seat torn in half and a soldier standing on a sink trying to unplug a bathroom drain. Sewage appears to cover the bathroom floor.

The video was made by Edward Frawley, the father of a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division who returned from Afghanistan on April 13 and is among the soldiers now living in the barracks.

“This is unbelievable,” Frawley says in the video. “It’s disgusting. It makes me mad as hell. If these buildings were in any city in America and were called apartments, dormitories, they would be condemned.”
The 82nd has declined comment and the Army is scheduling a 2:30 press conference to discuss this. I'm not sure how you spin this - no one belongs in barracks in that sort of shape and it really makes you wonder what in the hell they were thinking when they put them in there without taking even the minimum steps necessary to make them livable.

You know, many times it's not the combat or the long tours that cause young soldiers to decide not to reenlist in the military - it is being treated like this which drives them off. Whoever made this decision needs to be moved into that barracks today and made to live there indefinitely. I can't think of a better way to make it clear we shouldn't treat our soldiers like this.

UPDATE: The story is further updated by the Fayetteville Observer:
Responding to the video Friday afternoon, Army officials allowed the media to tour the barracks, which houses about 100 soldiers in the Charlie Company of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

The officials did not try to sugarcoat the conditions of the barracks. Tom McCollum, a civilian spokesman for Fort Bragg, called the building — built during the Korean War in the 1950s — “worn out.”

It will be replaced by May or June of next year with a six-story, $106 million high rise now under construction a short distance from the barracks, said Col. Dave Fox, Fort Bragg’s garrison commander. The new complex is part of a more than $2 billion barracks rebuilding project that started in the 1990s.

Twenty of the Korean War-era barracks remain at Fort Bragg. Two have been deemed unsafe for habitation because of mold. The others are still in use.
Interesting that the mold seen in the video wasn't enough to have the barracks these soldiers were in deemed unsafe for human habitation.

There apparently has been some work done on the barrack:
The barracks was undergoing repairs before they arrived on April 13, but the work did not get done in time, McCollum said.

Soldiers — including some who just returned from Afghanistan — and contractors spent the last 12 days scraping, painting and making other cosmetic improvements, Fox said. He said the plumbing also has been repaired.

Other than peeling paint in the bathrooms, the barracks looked much better Friday than what was depicted on the video.
And, as usual, bureaucracy is in the way of a common sense solution:
An Army source said the 82nd has requested that soldiers living in the old barracks be given housing allowances to move into private housing off post until the new barracks are completed.

But so far, he said, the Army has been unwilling to grant the request, which could cost millions of dollars.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
You’re absolutely right, McQ. I wouldn’t let convicted terrorists live in these kind of conditions. It’s inexcuseable.

That being said, I just spent the past few weeks at Ft. Bragg and several months last year spending time all over the base. I didn’t see these barracks, but what I did see impresed me. There is a massive amout of construction going on there. At least a dozen new BEQ’s being built simultaneously in one location alone. New chow halls and work spaces as well.

Similar construction is underway on Ft. Campbell, Ft. Riley and Ft. Carson. Upgrades are being made and old (non-historic) buildings are coming down. Also, new off base military housing is going up and upgrades made to existing units.

Again though, this is not an attempt to lighten the issue these soldiers are facin. It’s deplorable and someone needs to answer for it. If these buildings were decommissioned and are being reopened for temporary use, they should have been brought up to spec or never used at all. I’m sure there are several barracks buildings on base that could be used as temporary housing until something permanent was assigned.

I’ve spoken to more than a few soldiers in the past few years, in my travels as a contractor and I can honestly say that the morale and attitude of these men and women is overwhelmingly positive. Doing this to them is nothing short of criminal in light of what they go through in service to their country.
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://bigbadwolfsblog.blogspot.com
That being said, I just spent the past few weeks at Ft. Bragg and several months last year spending time all over the base. I didn’t see these barracks, but what I did see impresed me. There is a massive amout of construction going on there. At least a dozen new BEQ’s being built simultaneously in one location alone. New chow halls and work spaces as well.
I understand Ryan, and I’m obviously glad to hear that.

However, as noted, the point of the post is it is inexcusable that any soldier is placed in barracks in that shape for any reason. And while it may be an isolated incident and not indicative of what happens the majority of the time, it was (and is) a bad decision and one for which someone should answer.
I’ve spoken to more than a few soldiers in the past few years, in my travels as a contractor and I can honestly say that the morale and attitude of these men and women is overwhelmingly positive. Doing this to them is nothing short of criminal in light of what they go through in service to their country.

I agree Ryan.

Given our military of today, one of the things I quit worrying about long ago was what this next generation was made of. They’re made of greatness, and they deserve much better than this company of soldiers got.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
"Who made the decision to put these soldiers in barracks in that shape to begin with?"

I have lived in those wooden WWII barracks also (at several different places), not to mention WWII and pre-WWII barracks in Germany and Ft. Benning, and in tents. I have never seen anything like this. Whoever ordered these guys to live in these conditions rather than just set up a tented bivouac area with latrines should be relieved, if not court martialed. What the F*** is their commanding officer doing? I don’t know asbout the soldiers in these barracks, but I would rather live in a tent. It’s cleaner and healthier for one reason. It turns my stomach just looking at those barracks.
I do not think this is an isolated case. A few years ago my nephew, a Marine, was stationed at Ft. Meade, Md. His barracks were not as bad as the ones in this video, but they most definitely needed cleaning and maintainance. They were the worst barracks I had ever seen, until now.

I certainly hope there is more to this situation than what was on the video, something in extenuation and mitigation.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"it is being treated like this which drives them off."

Amen. Sometimes the ’lifers’ forget (if they ever knew) that respect and loyalty should go down the chain as well as up.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I am retired Air Force (that’s a "lifer" Tim) and retired from the Alaska Dept of Corrections as well. I needn’t tell you of the repercussions if you moved convicts into similar housing. I have noted a lot of instances when something that is encountered in the military would absolutely wind up in the courts if imposed upon an inmate.
McQ-are you a lifer too?
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
McQ-are you a lifer too?


28 years.

Worked out of those very barracks in the early ’70s too. They weren’t in the greatest of shape then.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Wow, that makes me angry.
 
Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
" built during the Korean War in the 1950s - "worn out.""

They weren’t worn out, they were neglected, poorly maintained and, judging by the missing fountains, vandalized or looted. These were, according to the video, the same barracks the company lived in 15 months before. It is pretty obvious nobody bothered to maintain them during that 15 months.



"Interesting that the mold seen in the video wasn’t enough to have the barracks these soldiers were in deemed unsafe for human habitation."

To heck with the mold, what about the raw sewage?


"I am retired Air Force (that’s a "lifer" Tim)"

Not necessarily. There is a difference between career military and lifers. I am quite willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are a career military person. Career officers, for example, make sure that there is hot soup, coffee, etc. available to the troops when they roll back into barracks at midnight after a week in the field. Lifers don’t ever know, or care, what is served in the mess hall, or even if it is fit for human beings.


"An Army source said the 82nd has requested that soldiers living in the old barracks be given housing allowances to move into private housing off post until the new barracks are completed"

Failing that, and since tents seem to be out, how about trailers (or mobile homes if you are sensitive)? There is precedent, and I think FEMA may still have some on hand. If not, I would be willing to bet that there are plenty of mobile home sales businesses nearby, unless things have changed dramatically since I was in the Army. Considering the cost of bringing those barracks back up to standards, the net additional costs would probably be minimal.

I am curious. Did they deploy as a company, or as a larger unit? Where did they plan to put the returning troops? Was there a plan? If so, why did the plan fail, and when did the responsible person know it failed? Who was that responsible person? If they deployed as part of a larger unit, what happened to the rest of that unit?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
this doesnt suprise me. lower enlisted single soldiers get treated like garbage and are expected to deal with. while NCOs and officers are given housing or the option to live off post. commanders are more interested in combat readiness and training then soldiers living conditions. in fort polk LA our barracks were filled with black mold we were told to "dont be a wuss and deal with it." ohh and why not give them BAH so they can make their own living arrangement? my guess is that you have never dealt with the a HHC the command and control element of a company which would rather have soldiers suffer in crappy barracks then actually spend money on decent living conditions for soldiers. eventually soldiers will see the writing on that wall that no one really gives a dam about them or their sacrifices and leave like the junior officers are doing here.

http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/fairenough/nyt153.html
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2007/0712.tilghman.html

washington once said.
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
 
Written By: slntax
URL: http://
This may help move these along to clean up the barracks.

My first assignment was the 3rd Platoon Leader in Charlie Company, 2/508th AIR.

I’ve gone 5 weeks without a shower in peacetime training.

I’ve seen barracks in worse conditions. They get fixed when there is the money available and the command attention.
 
Written By: James Atticus Bowden
URL: http://www.americancivilization.net
I’ve been stationed at Fort Polk for the past four years and the cause of the problem, consistently, is that higher ups can’t get contractors to do their damned jobs.

Apparently the standard notions of leadership, supervision, communication, rewards and punishments, all get thrown out when dealing with contractors. As far as I can tell, the only thing compelling them to do the work they’ve contracted to do is wishful thinking.

We had some "renovations" done on our barracks that were supposed to be done in six months and took a year and a half. At the end of it, they had repainted the walls and put down stick-on tiles, and they did a lousy job of it. Oh, and in the meantime we were moved into temporary barracks that were completely neglected.

There were renovations done on our company area that, similarly, took three times as long as projected, kept the whole area needlessly unusable for months, and under delivered.

A parking lot was supposed to be resurfaced. After everyone dutifully moved their vehicles out, they swept the parking lot. And then it sat empty for three weeks before someone finally decided they were sick of parking in the grass.

Work on roads goes on forever and parking lots all over post look like lunar landscapes.

It’s not just construction, IT is deficient too. Our post’s main fileserver has a lousy two terabyte array that’s supposed to serve thousands of users, and even if there were enough disk space, the server can barely handle the load.

Every ID card on post was upgraded (by hand) to be compatible with a new system and they went back to the old one in a few months. There have been other fiascos relating to security I won’t discuss.

And, of course, there seem to be regular crises with fuel distribution. It, apparently, came to a surprise to the civilians that if there are six platoons, each with multiple vehicles, you need to issue that company more than one or two fuel keys.

Post doesn’t even bother releasing figures about how long all the million dollar projects they have are expected to take. None of the stuff they’re doing is novel or complicated, it’s entirely due to mismanagement or complete lack of oversight. The simple fact is that the NCOs and officers in charge of managing these projects are not competent leaders, and their bosses aren’t holding them accountable.
 
Written By: ben
URL: http://
Ben: "... higher ups can’t get contractors to do their damned jobs."

What can be done about that? This was a point of contention when I served, too. It wasn’t this kind of issue, but I had to deal with a contractor on a tactical issue whose reliability and utility I didn’t trust, either. What can a company commander or battalion commander do when it’s not his soldiers or even someone else’s soldiers doing wrong, but civilian contractors?

What happens if contractors are responsible for a critical aspect of soldiers’ lives and well-being, but then are not accountable to those soldiers? Other than bang the drum at the bureaucracy about BAH or doing something (like what?) about the contractors, what can a CO do to take immediate action to care for his troops in this situation?
 
Written By: Eric Chen
URL: http://
For anyone interested;

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080429/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/bad_barracks

An excerpt or two;
"The barracks singled out by Frawley had been remodeled in April 2006, Rogers said"
(Brig. Gen. Dennis Rogers, who is responsible for maintaining barracks throughout the Army)

"Rogers said the Army’s standard procedure is to inspect a barracks building to verify that it meets Army standards before it is occupied by soldiers returning from an overseas deployment. For reasons he was unable to explain, that apparently did not happen in the Fort Bragg incident."
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://

 
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