Secretary of the Army speaks out on barrack repairs

April 30, 2008 9:10:49 PM PDT
The shocking You Tube video --narration by an outraged father about living conditions for paratroopers returning from combat-- has the nation demanding change.

Top Army commanders say no more troops will come home to living conditions that 82nd Paratroopers found when they returned from Afghanistan this month.

"When I did this, I only wanted to get the attention of some people that might call their congressmen and have the congressman call down to Fort Bragg and say, hey, these guys deserve better than this," said Ed Frawley, the father who created the video.

Military leaders at Fort Bragg say repairs to the barracks shown on a You Tube video were underway long before it hit the internet.

Click here to watch the video.

During a barracks tour at Fort Bragg Wednesday, the Secretary of the Army Pete Geren would not say how big of a problem the old barracks are, but did say the military will spend what-ever it takes to make them livable. He went on to say the Army has to do a better job making repairs.

"We've got old barracks throughout much of the Army, but old barracks are not an excuse for not meeting the needs of soldiers," Geren said. "They've got plumbing problems that come with anything that's that old. But where going to make sure we're that all the installations have the resources they need to meet all the challenges associated with very old barracks," he said.

The Army has launched a world-wide inspection of barracks to evaluate living conditions.

On Friday, fountains that were ripped out for repair have been re-installed with cool water flowing fountains.

"There was paint that was falling off the ceiling and chips of paint falling away. It's since been completely just chipped and taken off," said Derek Gondek with the 82nd Airborne Division.

The barracks Geren saw Wednesday were a lot cleaner than what soldiers found when they arrived home. Water fountains back in service, new ceiling tiles in place, peeling paint chipped off ready to be repainted and clean bathrooms, with working showers and toilets.

"My son called me at home and he told me things were good and a lot of things were being done there. I get a little choked up there, because he said they're all excited about it," Frawley said.

While Fort Bragg is spending $300 million on new barracks to replace barracks built in the 1950's. Some of the old ones will not be replaced for another 2 to 3 years.

"We got old barracks that have needs and in many cases it's nothing that can be fixed overnight. But there are things that we can do immediately to make sure when soldiers get back that we do a better job of making sure that they've got a quality barracks and we're working to do that."

Geren stopped short of saying the Army would hand out vouchers to help soldiers live off post while repairs are made.

The Secretary admitted many paratroopers will be living in the old barracks for the next couple of years and he has not ruled out any type of arrangement to help the troops live off post.

In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon with the Fayetteville Observer, Clinton said from Indiana that the short-term solution should be to allow the soldiers a housing allowance to live off-post or to move more quickly on completing new barracks.

Senator John McCain also made a statement Wednesday regarding the conditions of barracks at Fort Bragg.

"Obviously, this is an unacceptable situation. I think the most important thing to do initially is for the Secretary of Defense to conduct a thorough investigation of all barracks that are used by the men and women serving in our military and report to Congress any deficiencies or shortcomings that may exist," McCain said. "Again, it's one of these things that is so unacceptable that it's shocking. I have some confidence that it will be fixed, but it never ever should have happened in the first place."


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