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Mold, Sewage, and Rot in the Barracks: How Did the US Military Sink So Low?

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ANALYSIS by John “Wolf” Wagner

Mold, raw sewage, broken windows, and fire systems that don’t work. The Government Accountability Office recently highlighted these and other severe problems plaguing military barracks across the services. The problems also include non-existent maintenance and repairs, poor cleaning services, a lack of accountability, and more.

As someone who’s served since the early 80’s, I have to question how we got to this point. True, we of our generation served in some pretty grimy conditions, but we could count on making the best of things and continually improve our situation.  In fact, I’d say that even in Iraq I never faced quite the conditions detailed by the GAO report, and that was after moving into some bombed out palace buildings.

READ MORE analysis from John “Wolf” Wagner.

One question I have here – HOW THE HELL DID SQUATTERS GET ON THE BASE?  How is it there are people there that shouldn’t be?  Has the military fallen that far that they can’t police even their own facilities?

When I went into the military, we had just come out of the Vietnam era, and were just beginning the Reagan buildup years.  The military had begun to ramp back up in numbers, and were running out of room to house us all.  

I recall that at my first post, Fort Gordon, once I left Brems Barracks for Basic, I had to move into the old WWII-style barracks so many of us are familiar with. The barracks we moved into were barely habitable- they had been closed for nearly a decade, and slated for demolition but in the end left standing. 

The post had crews go in, basically hose it down, put bunks in, and then turned it over to us troops to make them livable.  While the heating worked (southeast GA CAN get chilly in the winter) there was no AC at all.  

While GAO report shows some truly disgusting housing conditions, I find it surprising that these facilities are even in use. The old barracks we had weren’t even this bad. True, they were simpler to maintain and were not much more than large huts, but they didn’t leak, all the windows were good, and plumbing was working with hot showers.  

I would push for the old days- clean your own mess. Don’t leave it for all the contractors to worry about.  Where is the NCO leadership in this?  They are the first line of defense here- and they have failed spectacularly.  RIght behind them are the officers, not holding NCO’s to their jobs.  They have become far too much the ‘9-to-5’ military.  

While money and budget issues are the key issues blamed for these conditions, something must be said for how you care for the facilities under your use. Has the military turned into a bunch of hoarders?  

Don’t kick this can down the road. I know that we have broached this many times over the years. I can recall a huge issues on MacDill AFB not too long ago over contract housing conditions. Let’s step up and get this right.

John “Wolf”  Wagner is a former White House SES appointee to several agencies in the Trump administration; he’s a retired Army officer and Iraq War veteran. He served a combined 35 years in the military, including USCENTCOM and USNORTHCOM assignments.

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