Where Soldiers Have to Live
Last year, the Washington Post illuminated the horrors of barracks life for wounded servicemembers at Walter Reed. The coverage ended careers, triggered Congressional inquiries, and catalyzed building improvements and numerous other fixes. More broadly, the scandal opened America's eyes to the larger challenges facing military personnel and veterans today.
Unfortunately, problems like those at Walter Reed still exist, and they exist throughout the Army, even at some of its most storied bases. When his son came home to Fort Bragg, N.C., from a combat tour in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division, one father found massive infestations of mold, peeling paint, standing water, rust, ripped out fixtures and many other problems in his son's barracks. Instead of merely getting angry, he made a YouTube video documenting what he saw:
Absolutely appalling and disgusting. But unfortunately, not surprising.
Those barracks probably aren't WWII-vintage, as the video says. That concrete style was built sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. You'll find similar barracks at Fort Campbell, Fort Benning, and Fort Hood, among other bases.
Still, these old buildings are in a state of perpetual decay. They cannot handle the human load of full occupancy, because their infrastructure (wiring, plumbing, etc.) is simply too aged. Expert maintenance supervised by hawkish sergeants major can keep these buildings in decent shape. But when left empty, as during a unit deployments, such buildings fall apart. Mold grows. Railings rust. Sewers clog. The building become uninhabitable.
There's no excuse for this. These buildings are on active-duty bases. Fort Bragg might not have the troops to take care of barracks back home, but it could have contracted for this job or found another way to get it done. It failed to do so. And once again, it's the soldiers and veterans who must pay the price.
Update: CNN reports that the Army's #2 general, Richard Cody, personally called the father and videographer to express his concern over the Fort Bragg barracks situation. "The conditions depicted in Mr. Frawley's video are appalling and unacceptable, and we are addressing the concerns he expressed," said a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg.
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