Mold covered from ‘floor to ceiling’ :: WRAL.com
Mold and other problems inside barracks built in the 1970s force military leaders at Fort Bragg to relocate 1,200 soldiers.
Military leaders must find places for the soldiers – who are single – to live. Then they will have to repair or replace the barracks.
Melissa Godoy is an advocate for soldiers living in substandard housing.
“Military family public housing has been in the news for the past two years,” Godoy said of the conditions she saw at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state.
In the 1970s, Smoke Bomb Hill Barracks at Fort Bragg was considered a state-of-the-art living area for single soldiers living on duty. However, time has taken its toll on the buildings.
Godoy has been in contact with soldiers living in the Smoke Bomb Hill barracks who say their rooms are covered in mold from “floor to ceiling”.
“[They said] mold [is] just covering every surface in their bedroom,” Godoy said. “They come back to their stuff full of mould.
“They live with asbestos, severe water leaks, flooding, poor ventilation [and] Nope [air conditioning], so you can imagine living in North Carolina, it’s 100 degrees, the peak of summer, and 100% humidity, and then you’ve been working outside all day and you want to go back to a nice, nice room fresh. Well, a lot of these men and women – they can’t because their air conditioning is down all over their building and so their building is over 100 degrees.”
Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. John Wilcox explained the decision to withdraw the soldiers and the plan to demolish the majority of the obsolete barracks.
“You don’t have 50-year-old buildings without problems,” said Fort Bragg garrison commander Col. John Wilcox. “Certainly, these are old barracks.”
Wilcox said the Army was in the process of analyzing the cost of replacing Smoke Bomb Hill barracks.
“I can’t really give you a hard number on where we are in terms of the total cost,” Wilcox said. “As far as timing goes, well, we’re interested in doing that as quickly as possible.”
Wilcox said the plan would be to demolish the outdated barracks within a year or two.
US Army Public Affairs Director Cheryle Rivas explained what prompted the Army to act in an email to WRAL News.
“Continued repairs and airflow modifications have created higher than normal humidity levels and quality of life issues,” Rivas wrote. “Army and installation leaders have inspected the living conditions in these barracks and are taking action to ensure the safety and quality of life of our soldiers.”
Rivas also said soldiers who are forced to move will not face additional costs. WRAL News asked Rivas if soldiers reported illnesses because they lived in barracks with mold.
“The health and well-being of our soldiers is of the utmost concern,” Rivas wrote. “We have not yet received any complaints.
“A medical expert is available if soldiers have mold-related concerns or questions. Soldiers with medical conditions are encouraged to seek medical attention and notify their chain of command.”
Last week, Fort Bragg leaders said soldiers would be moved from 10 to 12 barracks. The barracks did not meet current HVAC standards. Army chiefs said the relocation would be a “deliberate and phased approach”.
However, Godoy said the soldiers sent him photos showing mold on the walls, in the ceiling vents and along the baseboards. Some images show that the tile is cracked and there is flooding in some work areas.
“These people don’t even have working washers and dryers in their buildings, so they’re moving the Smoke Bomb Hill barracks tenants to a whole bunch of barracks that have even more problems,” he said. Godoy.
Barracks and housing for military families with issues is nothing new to Fort Bragg and military installations across the country.
In December 2021, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, sent a letter to U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth to address barracks conditions at Fort Bragg. Tillis wrote that he would work to ensure the Army is “effective in receiving and executing all available funding to upgrade and replace substandard barracks by 2030.”
At a virtual town hall in October 2020, Army leaders announced a $9.5 billion investment plan to modernize barracks nationwide through fiscal year 2030.
This is not the first time that problems have been reported regarding living conditions inside the stationed barracks. In 2008, soldiers posted pictures of the 82nd Airborne Division barracks. Outrage sparked change. A year later, this building was demolished and replaced.