FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) — Soldiers at Fort Stewart are calling out leadership on the base for what they say is negligence.
Soldiers in the Fort Stewart barracks tell me conditions are unlivable, and they tell me leadership hasn’t addressed any of their concerns for health and safety for multiple years.
Knee-high flood water, persistent mold, lack of air conditioning and missing fire alarms are just a few of the conditions soldiers living in the barracks at Fort Stewart tell News 3 that they deal with regularly.
Two soldiers agreed to speak with me on the condition of anonymity about living quarters they call “uninhabitable.”
They also provided exclusive photos and videos to WSAV.
They tell me that many soldiers are constantly sick from breathing in mold in their rooms or from the HVAC system circulating it through the air.
“I’m sick maybe twice a month, just with the same issue, a chest cold, that I’ve been told from our doctors that it’s likely from mold or what’s in the air that’s coming through our HVAC system,” one soldier said.
“Soldiers were hospitalized, and even when they were hospitalized, they were told to move back into that room that they were in. Weeks later, they were finally moved out, and even though they were moved out of that room, they were still put into another room that may not have a lot of mold, but that mold is still being circulated through the HVAC system,” they continued.
The soldiers I spoke with also say that whenever a complaint is submitted, the issue is largely ignored.
They also say they are often left to clean up hazards like mold and floodwater themselves – without proper tools or training.
“Everything in the barracks is expected to fall on us, even if it’s like extreme damage, something like that, something disastrous. It’s on us to pay for the cleaning supplies, clean it ourselves,” another soldier said.
Soldiers tell me past reports have highlighted the ongoing mold issue. Though, they say those reports haven’t led to any fixes or faster cleanups.
They tell me the circumstances have actually gotten worse.
“It almost feels indirectly retaliatory because they think they’re helping, but going through my room five times a week does not make the room bigger. It does not make it less moldy it does not pay for my cleaning supplies. It does not improve whatsoever, but, yeah, that’s all the leadership, senior leaders who’ve never lived in the barracks, know how to do,” a soldier said.
In response to these concerns, the Fort Stewart Public Information Officer, Kevin Larson, confirmed mold exists in the barracks.
“The installation director of public works and leadership works tirelessly to remedy the situation,” Larson said.
This comes amid a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office about the Pentagon failing to provide sufficient oversight for U.S. military base barracks.
Larson provided the following statement to News 3:
Mold exists in the barracks on Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. We live in southeast Georgia, where mold is a reality. Over the past three years, we have learned many lessons on how to mitigate mold. The installation’s Directorate of Public Works and leadership works tirelessly to remedy the situation through monitoring, cleaning, and remediation to rid mold from our Soldier’s barracks. The very first step is Soldiers recognizing what mold is and how to get rid of it. Routine cleaning and upkeep are the Soldier’s responsibility, and cleaning supplies are provided. Brigades have mold mitigation teams trained and ready to clean higher levels of mold that exceed occupant-level cleaning.
Many if not most of the issues referenced in buildings 210, 212, and 213 stem from an isolated event on Sept. 16 after our central energy plant had an issue. That issue resulted in several calls of multiple buildings on Fort Stewart having water leaks and HVAC issues. The issue at the central energy plant was fixed, as were the service calls in connection to the issue.
Nineteen maintenance orders were generated by this incident specific to these three buildings.
Building 210 had seven maintenance orders submitted, none for mold. All have been closed as of today.
Building 212 had 10 maintenance orders submitted, one for mold. Seven are closed—including the mold report, and three remain open as of today.
Building 213 had two maintenance orders submitted. Neither was for mold. One is closed as of today.
Soldiers in barracks building 212 reported to unit leadership that there were leaks coming from the ceiling on Sept 16. Leaders notified the Fort Stewart fire department and Directorate of Public Works to assess the damage and cause of the water leak. It was determined that there was a burst pipe and significant buildup of water in the building’s HVAC system.
After receiving a call for the leak, public works plumbers were dispatched to building 212 and repaired the busted lines. Later that afternoon, dehumidifiers were issued to each room or area that had water intrusion. On Monday, Sept. 18, the mold team inspected all rooms to ensure they had adequate dehumidification and address any additional concerns.
Our public works also has a 12-person mold strike team to support each brigade’s mold mitigation team. Also, 3rd Infantry Division staff receives mold reports from units twice a month to track mold mitigation efforts across Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield.
Additionally, there has been a $400,000 investment into the Mold Conditions Awareness Tool (MCAT) which was designed by a 3rd ID Soldier to assist with mold mitigation. The MCAT is a wireless temperature and humidity sensor which increases leaders’ awareness of the conditions which lead to mold growth and allows leaders to take proactive steps to mitigate those conditions to prevent mold growth. The MCAT has gone through testing and development is a small amount of barracks rooms. We expect our first batch of sensors in late fall this year to begin scaling the implementation of sensors across Fort Stewart.