By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 30, 2008) -- The poor conditions in a barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C. have largely been corrected, said an Army general responsible for maintaining such facilities.
"Most of those shortfalls have been corrected, as a matter of fact, they were corrected two weeks ago and there are some things that are still ongoing," said Brig. Gen. Dennis E. Rogers, deputy director of operations, Army Installation Management Command.
On April 28, the parent of a Soldier recently returned from Afghanistan posted to an online video sharing Web site pictures of the Soldier's barracks at Fort Bragg. The barracks were shown to be in poor condition, including peeling paint, rusted pipes and stairwell handrails, mold and missing ceiling tiles. The most visually shocking image displayed was that of a uniformed Soldier standing inside a utility sink, using a plunger on a bathroom floor drain. The floor had nearly three inches of standing water, presumably from backed up toilets.
In the video, the father of the Soldier asked viewers to contact their congressmen to affect change at the barracks.
Rogers met April 29, with reporters at the Pentagon to discuss the conditions of the barracks at Fort Bragg and how the service has worked and has been working, to correct the problems. He told reporters he takes responsibility for conditions at the barracks.
"I am the director of operations and facilities for Installation Management Command and it is my responsibility for maintaining barracks throughout the Army," he said. "In that role, I assume responsibility for the shortfalls in barracks maintenance referenced in the video. We let our Soldiers down, and that's not like us. That is not how we want America's sons and daughters to live."
Despite conditions shown on the video, the barracks in question were already in the process of being renovated. Rogers told reporters the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the building was new, and that furniture in Soldiers' individual rooms and the rooms themselves were also new and in good condition.
Additionally, conditions shown in the video were actually corrected before the video was released. The flooded bathroom floor, for instance, was remedied as soon as it was reported.
There are 23 more buildings at Fort Bragg similar to the one seen on the video, each built in the 1950's, during the Korean War. All of those buildings are scheduled to be taken "out of the inventory" in next five years, as new barracks come on line. The older barracks, while still occupied, are currently meeting Army standards for "health, life and welfare," Rogers said.
Senior leadership in the Army has directed all barracks, Army-wide, be walked through to determine if they are meeting Army standards. Those inspecting the facilities will be looking for conditions similar to what was seen at Fort Bragg. A final report on those findings should be compiled by next week, Rogers said, but so far nothing similar is being found in other barracks.
"This past weekend we directed that the garrisons throughout the Army, inspect, check, look at all the barracks to look for issues like this," he said. "What we have found is that Soldiers are living in conditions that ... are meeting Army standards. We have not seen anything that would lead us to the conclusion that those kinds of conditions exist."
The general did say that if conditions are found anywhere that would affect the health, safety or welfare of Soldiers, garrison commanders have been directed to fix those issues "right there, on the spot."
The Army's Installation Management command leadership has also directed the establishment of a Senior Noncommissioned Officer Forum, chaired by INCOM Command Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major Debora Strickland, to provide NCO perspective on the condition of Soldier living conditions Army-wide.
Despite problems with some barracks at Fort Bragg, as many as 80 percent of single Soldiers in the 82nd Airborne at the installation are living in new barracks, Rogers said. New barracks include "suite" like living quarters for Soldiers, where bathrooms and kitchenettes are shared with only a few others.