State News

Army secretary: Soldiers moved from eight barracks after review

Posted May 7, 2008 3:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 8:47 p.m. EDT

— Two weeks after an online video depicting squalid conditions at a Fort Bragg barracks spawned a worldwide investigation into U.S. soldiers' living conditions, some troops have been moved to new quarters.

U.S. Army Secretary Pete Geren said Wednesday that eight living units were in such bad shape that the eight soldiers who occupied them were moved to other quarters. He declined to say whether any of those were at Fort Bragg, though other officials said they were not.

"We didn't find any looming danger to their health and safety, but we found eight quarters that we did not feel were proper for them," said Geren, who was at Fort Bragg to dedicate a first-of-its-kind apartment complex for unmarried soldiers.

A video made by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper showed moldy ceilings and showers, peeling paint, an open sewage pipe, broken toilet seats and a flooded bathroom. After the video was posted on YouTube.com, Geren and other Army officials vowed to repair dilapidated barracks.

After inspecting its 148,000 barracks at posts around the world, the Army has dedicated $248 million to improve the maintenance of aging barracks. Fort Bragg will get $2.9 million of that total.

Geren said the Army has also expanded a pilot program that dedicates a team exclusively to the maintenance of living quarters. The teams report directly to a base commander.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole introduced a bill last week to transfer responsibility for barracks maintenance from the unit assigned to the building to the dedicated maintenance teams. The plan would make certain that all barracks are in decent shape even while a unit is deployed, she said.

Some installations also could use private contractors to clean and repair barracks, Geren said.

"Some places, they might need to do that, but they'll have the flexibility to do whatever it takes to make sure the soldiers get what they need," he said.

The 312 apartments in the new Randolph Pointe complex are targeted at unmarried soldiers at the rank of staff sergeant or above. Previously, they had to find quarters off base.

"This is just another step in our efforts to give our soldiers a quality of life they deserve," Geren said.

Lower-ranking single soldiers, from sergeant down, will continue to live in barracks at Fort Bragg.

The complex was developed by Picerne Military Housing, which manages family housing at the base.

The furnished one- and two-bedroom apartments are within walking distance of a post exchange store. The complex will have a clubhouse with wireless Internet access, workout rooms, televisions and an outdoor pool and volleyball courts.

Rent paid to Picerne from the soldiers' monthly housing allowance will include utilities, appliances, 24-hour maintenance and $10,000 worth of renter's insurance, the military said.

Each of the 22 Korean War-era barracks on Fort Bragg will be razed and replaced by 2013.