This story was originally published in the Fayetteville Observer.
FORT BRAGG — Barracks from which 1,200 Fort Bragg soldiers are being relocated because of mold, outdated ventilation systems and aging buildings, will be demolished, a Fort Bragg spokesperson said.
Officials announced the move Thursday and said it followed an inspection of living quarters near Smoke Bomb Hill, where leaders found inadequate heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Responding to questions Friday from The Fayetteville Observer, Fort Bragg’s statement said “the priority is to relocate soldiers into other barracks rooms on the installation.”
The statement said that mold was reported in the barracks that were built during the mid-1970s.
“Continuous repairs and changes to airflow created higher than normal moisture levels and quality of life concerns,” the statement said. “Army and installation leaders inspected the living conditions in these barracks and (are) taking action to ensure the safety and quality of life of our soldiers.”
According to the Fort Bragg news release, a preliminary assessment found that 10 to 12 of the barracks, which were built in the 1970s, “do not meet today’s HVAC standards.”
During the past six months, no soldiers were moved from the barracks near Smoke Bomb Hill, and none have reported any health or breathing issues tied to living in the buildings, the statement said.
“There is a medical expert available should soldiers have mold-related concerns or questions,” the statement said. “Soldiers experiencing any health-related issues are encouraged (to) seek medical help and notify their chain of command.”
Military.com first reported that Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston was part of the inspection “that did not go well” and the end of July and that Grinston “scolded local leadership” for the condition of the barracks that have been riddled with mold issues, and one room had a hole in the wall with exposed pipes.
The statement said that following inspections and assessments, some barracks on Fort Bragg will be renovated and the majority in the Smoke Bomb Hill area that are more than 50 years old will be demolished.
Past issues with barracks
The latest move is not the first time concerns have been raised about barracks or that soldiers have been moved.
In December, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina wrote a letter to Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth after a Fort Bragg soldier contacted his office about mold in the barracks.
“It has come to my attention that many unaccompanied housing installations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina are experiencing issues due to mold and outdated infrastructure,” Tillis wrote.
Unaccompanied housing structures are living quarters, usually called barracks, for single soldiers.
In Tillis’ letter to Wormuth, he wrote that in October 2020, about 200 soldiers under the 1st Special Forces Command’s 528th Special Operations Sustainment Brigade were temporarily moved after faulty heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems caused moisture and mold in two barracks buildings.
In a previous statement to The Fayetteville Observer, Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who was commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at the time, said that mold was found in two barracks buildings in early January 2021, but the mold was immediately addressed.
“We take these types of issues very seriously and we’re constantly inspecting our paratroopers’ barracks to ensure they are maintained to the high standards they deserve, just as we did after 1st Brigade’s historic deployment to Afghanistan in August (2021),” Donahue previously said.
Plans to fix Fort Bragg barracks
In Tillis’ letter to Wormuth, he said that as a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, he will work to ensure the Army is effective in receiving funding to modernize and replace substandard barracks by 2030.
During a virtual town hall meeting in October 2020, Grinston announced that the Army planned to invest $9.5 billion to upgrade barracks through fiscal year 2030.
Former Fort Bragg garrison commander Col. Scott Pence said 24 of Fort Bragg’s oldest barracks were either undergoing renovations or scheduled for renovations this year.
The Fort Bragg spokesperson said the average age of barracks on Fort Bragg is about 28 years old and that there are 12 projects undergoing renovations, which usually take about two years or more to complete.
Another eight barracks will start renovations at the end of December.
Fort Bragg’s statement said soldiers are encouraged to use existing reporting systems to request maintenance of their quarters and to provide candid feedback to installation leadership.
The Army Maintenance Application allows soldiers to report work orders for facilities, barracks, roads and grounds repairs, which can be made online at armymaintenance.com.
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