2019-03-01 / Front Page

CHANGES ARE HAPPENING

Housing issues receiving responsive action
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Command Sgt. Maj. Donald A. Wilson, left, Cyber Center of Excellence Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, discusses concerns about air quality inside the academy’s barracks with Army senior leadership during a barracks walkthrough Feb. 21. The Army is actively addressing all emergency and maintenance issues in privatized housing and barracks. Geralyn Smith Noah / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Command Sgt. Maj. Donald A. Wilson, left, Cyber Center of Excellence Noncommissioned Officer Academy commandant, discusses concerns about air quality inside the academy’s barracks with Army senior leadership during a barracks walkthrough Feb. 21. The Army is actively addressing all emergency and maintenance issues in privatized housing and barracks. Geralyn Smith Noah / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office In response to recent reports of substandard living conditions in privatized housing and barracks across the military, Army senior leaders are listening and are taking action toward change.

U.S. Army Installation Management Command Commanding General Lt. Gen. Bradley A. Becker and IMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Melissa A. Judkins visited Fort Gordon Feb. 21 to meet with Garrison leadership, Fort Gordon residents, and privatized housing staff that manage on-base housing.

Their visit included two roundtables where several dozen housing and barracks residents were asked to share their experiences and concerns regarding their housing. Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford Garrison and Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Bryant Jr. joined Becker and Judkins as part of the panel. Housing Services Office and Directorate of Public Works staff were also present.


U.S. Army Installation Management Command Sgt. Maj. Melissa A. Judkins, left, and Mary Scott, Housing Services Office, look at water damage inside during a walkthrough of a Fort Gordon resident’s home on Feb. 21. Geralyn Smith Noah / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office U.S. Army Installation Management Command Sgt. Maj. Melissa A. Judkins, left, and Mary Scott, Housing Services Office, look at water damage inside during a walkthrough of a Fort Gordon resident’s home on Feb. 21. Geralyn Smith Noah / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office More than 87,000 of the Army’s homes were privatized under the Residential Communities Initiative (RCI) program in 1996, after Congress passed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Authorities to address the $8 billion backlog in maintenance and repair challenges.

Becker opened the forum saying he wanted to hear specific issues tenants are having with their living conditions. As a privatized housing tenant himself and leader who has worked with RCI, Becker said he was aware of some issues, but the scope of the problem did not begin to surface until issues were formally brought forward during a family readiness forum held last October.

Following that forum, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, and Becker visited some of the single-family homes at nearby Fort Meade, Maryland.

“A number of family members came forward, and we realized we have a bigger problem than what we knew about,” Becker explained. “It all came to a head at a congressional testimony when Congress asked the privatized partners to come in and testify on why we have Servicemembers living in substandard housing – why they’re not living up to their commitment to providing quality housing to our Servicemembers and their families.”

At the Fort Gordon forums, tenants voiced problems that included inoperable appliances, electrical complications, maintenance performing “quick fixes” instead of thorough repairs, mold, open work orders, and various other issues. Becker, Judkins, and the Garrison team witnessed some of the issues firsthand earlier in the day as they visited multiple Fort Gordon homes and barracks with recent emergency work orders. And what they found was in line with what they heard and saw at Fort Meade.

“What became clear through our walkthrough and listening to residents is this isn’t just one or two families who are unhappy no matter what you do,” Becker said. “We’ve got a big problem … we have to very quickly take action and fix these problems.”

Recognizing it as an Army-wide problem, Becker said military officials are “acting aggressively” to ensure problems are resolved and that tenants are properly cared for moving forward.

In response, a Department of the Army Headquarters crisis action team was established, and senior leadership at every Army installation has been given 30 days to visit every home and barrack, with notice and consent of occupant, on their installation to assess living conditions, take action and to report issues to senior Army leaders. Every afternoon, Esper, Milley, Dailey and Becker receive updates from the crisis action team, as provided by each garrison.

“Family by family, name by name; not just numbers,” Becker said.

Judkins emphasized that the home visits are inspections, but rather an opportunity to see and report any issues related to housing and have a work order immediately put in if necessary.

“It is to make sure we do everything – which we have an inherent right and responsibility to do – to care for our Soldiers and families,” Judkins said. “Everyone who is in a leadership position is committed to this, and if they’re not, they need to get on the bandwagon.”

Following the forum, Becker and his panel met with Balfour Beatty Communities management to brief them on specific issues, which were immediately taken care of, and the Army’s expectations moving forward.

“Whether we have to contract out, bring additional people in … we have to make extraordinary efforts,” Becker said. “We have lost the confidence of our Servicemembers and our families, and we have to act quickly ... they need to visibly see that we’re out there getting things done and getting them done right.”

Installations were mandated to conduct a town hall as a part of the ongoing effort. Fort Gordon held its town hall on Thursday, at 6 p.m., in Alexander Hall, to provide information, gain feedback, and immediately process any concerns. The town hall aired live on Facebook. A summary of the event will be published in the next issue of the Globe and on the Fort Gordon Facebook page.

Fort Gordon residents who have issues with on-post housing should contact the Balfour Beatty Communities manager at 706- 772-7041. Soldiers in barracks should call the Service Order Desk at 706-791-5520. Residents who live off post should contact their landlord.

All emergency work orders are being tracked, and those which involve life, health, or safety are receiving immediate action.

If issues are not resolved in a timely or satisfactory manner, each can contact their chain of command and the Fort Gordon Housing Services Office at 706- 791-9658, or at usarmy.gordon. imcom.list.housing@mail.mil. If you are still having issues, contact the Fort Gordon Leader Housing/ Barracks Hotline at 706-791-2472. The 24-hour hotline is a direct line of communication to the Garrison command team. There will be absolutely no reprisals for reporting!

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