By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 29, 2008 - A senior Army officer responsible for soldiers' housing pledged remedial action in the wake of news reports citing some soldiers living on Fort Bragg, N.C., were housed in substandard quarters. "It is my responsibility for maintaining barracks throughout the Army," Brig. Gen. Dennis E. Rogers, deputy director of operations and facilities for U.S. Army Installation Management Command, in Arlington, Va., said today during a roundtable discussion with Pentagon reporters.
"Folks, we let our soldiers down, and that's not like us," Rogers emphasized to reporters. "That's not how we want America's sons and daughters to live, and there's no good excuse for what happened."
Earlier this month, the father of one of the Fort Bragg-based soldiers uploaded a video onto an Internet Web site that depicted a clogged bathroom drain and profuse peeling paint inside a 1950s-vintage barracks that housed his son and some other 82nd Airborne Division soldiers who recently redeployed to Fort Bragg after a duty tour in Afghanistan.
However, work orders had already been submitted to correct the barrack's discrepancies that were identified in the video, Rogers said. Most of the shortfalls, he added, had been corrected before the video's posting.
"The flaking paint condition was, in fact, ugly. ... We have scraped that paint off, and the surfaces are being repainted," Rogers said.
The clogged and flooded drain in the bathroom floor was reported and repaired immediately, he said.
Twenty-three other 1950s-style barracks are in use on Fort Bragg, and all of them are slated for demolition within the next five years as new barracks are constructed, Rogers said. There are no health or safety issues with those older barracks, he added.
There is a process in place at Army posts worldwide in which older barracks in use are maintained until they are torn down, Rogers reported. That process failed at Fort Bragg, he acknowledged.
The older barracks used to house soldiers "are looking worse and worse, so we're getting the new barracks on line as soon as possible," Rogers said.
Senior Army leaders directed garrison commanders worldwide to walk through and inspect their barracks April 26-27, Rogers said. The feedback is still being examined, and a report may be ready as early as sometime next week, he said.
"We got most of those barracks looked at," Rogers said, noting some rooms were unavailable for inspection until residents had returned from four-day passes.
Meanwhile, Army garrison commanders and command sergeants major have made an assessment that soldiers are housed in accordance with Army standards, Rogers said. On-the-spot corrections have been made to bring unsatisfactory barracks living conditions into compliance with Army standards, he noted.
Installation Management Command's top enlisted person, Command Sgt. Major Debra L. Strickland, accompanied Rogers at the roundtable. Strickland will chair a noncommissioned officer forum that will provide an NCO perspective on Army barracks issues, Rogers said.
Taking care of soldiers, including ensuring their living quarters meet Army standards, is an NCO's primary task, Strickland told reporters.
"The noncommissioned corps has the basic responsibility for the welfare of our soldiers," Strickland pointed out.
More than 10,800 of Fort Bragg's 51,000 soldiers live in barracks or post family housing units, according to installation officials.