There’s mold in the Fort Bragg barracks.
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis wrote a letter Tuesday to Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth complaining about mold and demanding an immediate fix.
“Allowing soldiers to live in moldy and unsafe housing is a danger to country,” Tillis wrote.
Tillis provided his letter in a news release Thursday and said a Fort Bragg soldier contacted his office with photo evidence. He added that the soldier reported that Bragg’s public works department “stated they will not address” the situation.
“Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Works resolves a high volume of work orders every day, including mold remediation,” Col. Scott Pence, Fort Bragg garrison commander, wrote in a statement to The News & Observer. “If soldiers feel their work orders are not being addressed in a timely manner, their chain of command can contact Garrison headquarters for a resolution.”
Fort Bragg, located near Fayetteville, is home to around 53,700 troops, the Army says.
In 2019, the U.S. Army released a survey of resident satisfaction with 43 installations’ privatized family and unaccompanied housing. The survey found that Fort Bragg had the worst satisfaction with family housing at any of the installations and was the only base ranked as “very poor.”
Complaints in the survey included landscaping, visitor parking, road conditions, pest control and comparisons to previous communities a soldier had lived in.
In a 2021 survey, Fort Bragg’s ranking was 41 and was listed as “below average.”
It was not clear if that portion of the survey included unaccompanied housing for soldiers serving a tour of duty without dependents, which are the barracks addressed in Tillis’ letter. In 2019 and 2021, Fort Bragg ranked third out of the five bases surveyed that offer this type of housing. The 2019 survey notes that Fort Bragg soldiers’ response rate was under 20%.
This isn’t the first time Tillis has addressed mold at the base. In 2019, he visited Fort Bragg to listen to soldiers’ concerns about housing. He encouraged families to reach out to his office with complaints.
The N&O reported then that a soldier’s wife said concerns she had voiced previously about mold in her barrack were addressed immediately when officials learned Tillis planned to visit.
In September, news of mold in the barracks surfaced again as soldiers returned home from Afghanistan.
ABC11, The N&O’s news gathering partner, reported then that a soldier found their home and belongings covered in mold and showed photographs of air ducts, clothing and bedding covered in spores.
Tillis voted last week to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which provided $27.2 million to Fort Bragg for an emergency water system and a 10-megawatt microgrid using existing and new generators. Money is also set aside in the bill to improve housing, but is not Fort Bragg specific.
“The safety and welfare of our service members is our top priority,” Pence said. “The army has invested $44.1 million in 24 of our barracks in 2022 to enhance quality of life and ensure barracks are at a level our Soldiers deserve.”
Pence added that there are 18 barracks at Fort Bragg currently under renovation and six more scheduled to be renovated. He said the renovations will correct original design issues that make mold conditions more likely.
“For the day to day, we have to remember that Soldiers and leaders are our eyes and ears when it comes to barracks maintenance issues,” Pence said.
Tillis said in his letter that the Army needs to continue prioritizing the modernization of housing and barracks to ensure soldiers’ safety and that they’re Army-ready.
“As the Army continues to undergo modernization and readiness enhancement efforts to prepare for Strategic Competition with near-peer competitors, Fort Bragg will remain singularly important as the ‘tip of the spear’ for the Department of Defense,” Tillis wrote. “Therefore, I urge the Department of the Army to continue the ongoing effort to recapitalize barracks across the Army enterprise and address the conditions of the barracks immediately.”
© 2021 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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