State News

Fort Bragg barracks demolition begins with bang

Posted June 18, 2009 4:33 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2009 7:07 p.m. EDT

— Demolition began Thursday on 54-year-old Fort Bragg barracks whose poor conditions, documented in a YouTube video, prompted a presidential vow to destroy and replace them.

The father of an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper posted the 10-minute video, showing mold, rust, chipping lead-based paint, broken drain pipes and a gas line stuffed with tissues. In one image, a soldier tried to unplug a floor drain that appeared to be clogged with sewage.

"Could I say that it was a YouTube video that caused it?That’ll be something Congress has to answer," Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum said. "But what I can say is last year, Congress and the DA (Department of the Army) released some funds that allowed this project to move forward."

Then-President George W. Bush toured the barracks and pledged to have them down by 2011.

The money appropriated by Congress will allow Bragg to have 13 barracks down by the end of this summer. New ones, which have been planned for more than a decade, will open within two years – well ahead of schedule.

"Anytime that the Department of the Army and Congress gives us money to replace aging barracks and improve the quality of life for our soldiers, we’ll gladly take that money," McCollum said.

Preliminary work on the $88 million project began last week with asbestos abatement. Environmental hazards, such as mercury thermostats and smoke detector batteries that contain acids, were taken to be recycled. Three-quarters of the debris will be recycled at Fort Bragg's landfill.

As bulldozers first bit into the barracks Thursday, it quickly became apparent, that despite their unhygienic conditions, the buildings were tough enough to resist coming down.

"If any soldier that used to lived in these barracks had always wondered about the structurally soundness of them, I can guarantee you these things were tough, and they’re hard to come down," McCollum said.

"They’ve kind of served their time from an architectural standpoint and floor layout, but as we can see, the structure’s still obviously very sturdy," said Allen Hand, resident engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.

Rising in the place of the Korean War-era barracks will be state-of-the-art living facilities, including two 222-person barracks building, two four-company operations buildings and one 288-person barracks building.

The soldiers will get to live in apartment-style suites with kitchens, private bedrooms and living rooms, Hand said. And they'll enjoy one more big benefit – private bathrooms, instead of community restrooms.

"The soldiers' standard of living will be much improved in these barracks," Hand said.