Fort Bragg soldiers prepare to move out of unsafe barracks

ByMonique John WTVD logo
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Fort Bragg soldiers prepare to move out of unsafe barracks
Fort Bragg said as many as 1,200 soldiers are getting ready to move out of barracks with substandard living conditions.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fort Bragg said as many as 1,200 soldiers are getting ready to move out of barracks with substandard living conditions on the installation. Several of the barracks will be renovated while most will be demolished.

The barracks are in the Smoke Bomb Hill area of Fort Bragg. Col. John Wilcox, the Garrison Commander, said most of the issues with the barracks were related to their HVAC systems.

"But there have been a series of maintenance issues that have just become increasingly more prominent, and really led to what we're seeing as the tipping point of where we made the determination to go ahead and move soldiers out and start the demo process," Wilcox said.

Fort Bragg officials said several offices are banding together in a sweeping effort to overhaul a dozen housing facilities. Five others will be refurbished. The number of new barracks that will be built has not been determined yet, and organizers are also still devising the timeline for the project.

Officials said the offices are pooling together substantial resources to execute the project, and that they are taking a phased-in approach. They are hoping to seamlessly move soldiers into safer, more comfortable housing. They went on to say that they hope this effort to reform housing at the installation will boost morale and express how much they care for their soldiers.

"From the highest levels of the Army down to action-officer level ... we're ready to make sure the soldiers are being taken care of appropriately and their spaces are up to the standard we would want them to live in," Wilcox said.

The barracks that are being emptied were built in the 1970s and 1980s and only had about a 40-year life span. Last fall, Fort Bragg's housing facilities faced a heating system failure that caused other HVAC systems to go into overdrive to keep up with cooling requirements and manage humidity. Wilcox said soldiers were tasked with keeping up the conditions and cleanliness of the barracks. However, says the constant repairs needed to the barracks were becoming too taxing on servicemembers. As a result, Fort Bragg opted not to allocate more funds to replace the HVAC systems to rectify the issue.

However, Rachel Christian of the Armed Forces Housing Advocates said the complaints her organization has received from soldiers are inconsistent with Fort Bragg's expressed concern for their wellbeing.

"We were getting reports of soldiers with their hair falling out, soldiers coming back from deployment or times in the field with all of their belongings just covered in a layer of mold. We were getting reports that they were reporting things that were occurring, and then DPW (Directorate of Public Works) or their general contractor would come in and just wipe things down and not do any real type of remediation," Christian said.

Christian said this issue has been consistently ignored for years. Plus, soldiers are mocked and face intense scrutiny when they draw awareness, she said.

Fort Bragg's relocation plans aren't feasible, she argued, as there is already a deficit of housing and there is a poor track record of sending soldiers to offsite housing. She contended that the government offices that are empowered to better care for soldiers are not seeking and investing adequate money to secure safe housing for them.

"The Department of Defense can go in and fix these situations, and I am very sure that they can go in and ask for the funding to fix these situations," Christian said. "But you can see what the DOD requested to fix the barracks last year and it is abysmal."

Fort Bragg said it expects the renovations and reconstruction of the barracks will be finished between the fiscal years 2025 and 2027.