BadBarracks 2ndLd-Writethru 04-29
Army widens probe after finding bad conditions at Fort Bragg
Eds: UPDATES with Clinton calling for congressional hearing.
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Army officials said Tuesday they are inspecting every barracks building worldwide to see whether plumbing and other problems revealed at Fort Bragg, N.C., last week are widespread.
Brig. Gen. Dennis Rogers, who is responsible for maintaining barracks throughout the Army, told reporters at the Pentagon that most inspections were done last weekend but he had not seen final results.
While not providing specifics about problems discovered during the weekend inspections, Rogers indicated some deficiencies were corrected. In cases where extensive repairs are deemed necessary, the soldiers in that housing would be moved elsewhere until the fixes are completed, he added.
Rogers said it was too soon to know whether the Fort Bragg problem was an isolated incident. He acknowledged the revelations from a video shot by the father of an 82nd Airborne Division soldier showing poor conditions such as mold inside the barracks, peeling interior paint and a bathroom drain plugged with sewage.
The soldier’s father, Ed Frawley, said he was disgusted by the conditions that greeted his son and the rest of his 82nd Airborne unit that returned on April 7-8 after a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.
"We let our soldiers down, and that’s not like us," Rogers told reporters. "We let our soldiers down. That’s not how we want America’s sons and daughters to live. There’s no good excuse for what happened."
He said the problems in that building have been fixed and that a final paint job is in the works. It is one of 24 barracks at Fort Bragg that were built in the 1950s and are scheduled for demolition by 2013. The barracks singled out by Frawley had been remodeled in April 2006, Rogers said.
Rogers said the Army’s standard procedure is to inspect a barracks building to verify that it meets Army standards before it is occupied by soldiers returning from an overseas deployment. For reasons he was unable to explain, that apparently did not happen in the Fort Bragg incident.
A spokesman for Fort Bragg, Tom McCollum, told the same group of reporters that the post, which is one of the Army’s largest with a population of 51,000 soldiers — including more than 12,000 who live on the post — is saddled with 1950s-vintage housing that is not popular with soldiers.
Of the more than 12,000 in barracks at Fort Bragg, about 2,500 are in those built in the 1950s, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said.
"Are soldiers happy with living in the Korean War-era barracks? No," McCollum said. They do not meet the expectations of today’s troops, although the Army has done what it can to improve living conditions, McCollum said, speaking by telephone from Fort Bragg.
"Today, no matter how hard we try, we can’t put enough lipstick on this pig to make it more pretty," the spokesman said. "So are there soldiers complaining? Yeah." He said they’ve been complaining for decades.
Some lawmakers are calling for Congress to investigate.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, told The Fayetteville Observer that she has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on Fort Bragg and the broader issue of living conditions for returning troops, the paper said on its Web site Tuesday night.
North Carolina holds its presidential primary next Tuesday.