Joseph L. Galloway of the Miami Herald wrote an oped piece about the responsibility the US Army has in caring for soldiers.
The latest outrage is a father's video of a U.S. Army barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the 82nd Airborne Division. It shows the quarters where his soldier son and other soldiers were sent to live upon their return from combat. Mold and mildew and peeling paint are bad enough, but what about a big barracks bathroom ankle-deep in raw sewage?
Scandals like this one and an earlier eruption of outrage over the miserably maintained quarters where wounded soldiers were warehoused at Walter Reed Army Hospital are an indictment of the core competency of our Army.
If the Army cannot afford to maintain minimally decent standards of housing and feeding our soldiers -- and treat them with the best medical care and all the loving attention they deserve when they're wounded in combat -- then, by God, the Army doesn't deserve to have ANY soldiers at all.
There's only one real demand we place on the Army: To turn out a well trained, well-armed, highly motivated U.S. soldier to protect our nation and defeat our enemies.
I pretty much agree with him up until he gets to this point.
This isn't rocket science. This isn't an impossible demand. This is taking care of business at its most basic level. If Army leadership can't do that every day, 24/7, then it has failed utterly and ought to be relieved of duty and drummed out of service in disgrace.
......If the Army can't do the job, then take the soldiers away and turn them over to, say, the Marines, and let's see if the Marine Corps can take care of them properly and see that their most basic needs are met in a competent and consistent manner.
Cut the fat first
Sorry. That's not a valid excuse. If money is short, stop running congressional junkets to Iraq and Afghanistan at a cost of millions to protect the little darlings during their photo-op market visits in Baghdad. Stop painting general officers' quarters. Stop mowing the grass on base golf courses. Close the Army Congressional Liaison Office until the budget bills are passed. Cut the fat first. Cut the perks for fat cats first.
Sounds good in theory. But how many barracks do you think will be renovated if we put the whole "golf course grass cutting" budget into barracks maintenance? If we stop painting General officers' quarters, that will stop painting between three to seven houses per major installation. How many barracks can be painted with the paint from just seven houses?
Like most government agencies the US Army has to have a budget that gets reviewed. We have to work within that budget, even when new needs arrive that weren't part of the initial budget.
We, the Army leadership in question, are COMPLETELY AWARE of the living condition of our enlisted men in the barracks. Men get put in substandard living quarters IF and ONLY IF there is NO OTHER PLACE TO PUT THEM.
I have the pleasure of the additional duty of "building manager". Which means that I got to go to classes on how to inspect barracks for safety issues and the process for getting work done by the civilian contractors who are responsible for maintaining the barracks.
Is the system slow? Yes and no. If it is a health or safety hazard then it has the highest priority, and it will get fixed the fastest. Please note that fastest does not mean "immediate". Getting fresh paint on the walls takes a longer time than getting the plumbing fixed.
The barracks that my Joes occupy is the same design as the Ft. Bragg disgrace. The only difference is that while they were deployed maintenance was conducted by contractors. Since the barracks at Ft. Bragg were never supposed to be occupied again, they were not renovated in any way.
We are in a time of war. We have gone through multiple rounds of "BRAC" or Base Realignment And Closure which closes small posts and transfers soldiers to big posts. We are also "growing" the Army by multiple combat brigades. This means that we are going to be in a housing crunch until we can catch up to the demands that have been placed upon us.
I guarantee you that the leadership at Ft. Bragg was working to fix the problem the moment they found out where they were going to be living. I guarantee you that work orders were already submitted before the video ever posted on YouTube.
I've encountered poor leadership, but never completely negligent leadership in the Army. The "perks for fat cats" that Galloway wants cut aren't going to fix anything. Cutting the MWR budget is going to be particularly unwelcome with the Joes that he's trying to please. Sure we can close the bowling alley, fire the MWR staff at the gyms (PT is free), shut down the library, etc. But who wants to live on a post where there is nothing but well maintained barracks?
Sure it was a disgrace to not get the barracks into livable standards before the unit returned. Sure some bean counter somewhere was planning on having new barracks for them to move into when they got back. The new barracks are really nice, when I enlisting (way back in 1997) they had just put in the first two on North Fort Lewis. Since then they have completed a bunch more, but still have the old WWII wooden barracks (slowly getting rid of them as they can) and the Korean era barracks like at Ft. Bragg.
It's going to take a long while to get all the living facilities up to Air Force standards, but then again the Army has finally started to get an Air Force style budget.