More than 200 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) had an unpleasant interruption to their four-day weekend on Saturday, when they had to leave their Fort Bragg barracks rooms on short notice after an investigation into a mold complaint revealed unsafe living conditions in two buildings.
The move came shortly before Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced a $9.6 billion barracks overhaul initiative during his address to the Association of the United States Army conference on Tuesday.
"This action was spurred by a soldier’s complaint through an internal webpage the command established to receive ideas, questions, or concerns directly from anyone in the organization,” said 1st Special Forces Command spokesperson Maj. Dan Lessard.
An industrial hygienist visited the two buildings on Oct. 8 to take air quality samples. The testing revealed the air was unsafe for soldiers, and the humidity levels indicated extensive HVAC work was necessary to prevent further mold growth, Lessard said.
Maj. Gen. John Brennan, the commander of 1st Special Forces Command, made the decision to move the soldiers overnight between Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, at the start of the four-day holiday weekend.
Affected soldiers had to quickly move out of the buildings beginning on Oct. 10. Lessard, the command’s spokesperson, said. “Soldiers received the alert to move to alternate lodging on short notice because the command team concluded after conducting leader walkthroughs and air quality surveys that the conditions warranted immediate action.”
Of the 203 total displaced soldiers from the 528th Sustainment Brigade, 120 had to move to off-post hotels. The Warfighter 21-1 exercise currently underway at Fort Bragg has reduced the number of available rooms on or near post.
1st Special Forces Command intends to move the displaced soldiers back into on-post lodging at the conclusion of the exercise.
Fort Bragg’s Directorate of Public Works is currently attempting to arrange emergency repairs for the buildings, with the goal of moving the displaced soldiers back by the end of the year.
“Our Soldiers are our most valuable asset, and it is our responsibility to protect their health and welfare,” said Maj. Gen. John Brennan, commander of 1st Special Forces Command in a statement to Military Times. “On Saturday, 10 Oct. in coordination with Fort Bragg Garrison leaders and Directorate of Public Works, we took action to temporarily move approximately 200 Soldiers into alternate lodging so DPW could address issues with the HVAC systems and mold in two of our barracks. This issue has the full attention of our entire command team, and we are continuing to work with DPW to resolve these issues as soon as possible.”
Fort Bragg officials quickly realized there was a problem, said garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Will Lohmeyer.
“When we were notified of the HVAC and mold problems in these barracks, the importance and gravity of the situation was immediately evident,” Lohmeyer said. “Ensuring the health, safety and quality of life of our nation’s heroes is, and always will be, a top priority for leaders at every level.”
The problem was first reported in August and repairs are expected to be complete by the end of December, said Adam Luther, a garrison spokesman.
“Situations such as this emphasize the importance of facility managers and the service members knowing how and where to submit a work order when problems arise," said Luther.
Work orders can be submitted through the Fort Bragg website, by phone, in person or via email. he said.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.