FORT HOOD, TX — Fort Hood is the largest military instillation in the United States, and that means it is home to thousands of soldiers and their families.
Some soldiers and families are happy to be on Fort Hood, but others are suing the private housing company that runs the homes.
Fort Hood Family Housing, which is part of the global real estate and investment group, Lendlease, is responsible for thousands of homes on post.
”We’ve got 5,617 homes here on Fort Hood. It's one of the largest projects in the Lendlease portfolio,” said Chris Albus, Fort Hood Family Housing Project Director.
Typically, soldiers with families live in the private homes. Those who are unmarried live in the barracks.
”Barracks are the places that our soldiers that are in the ranks of sergeant or lower and are unmarried live. All in all, we have beds for about 15,000 soldiers,” said Fort Hood Public Works Director, Brian Dosa.
Fort Hood Family Housing is currently involved in a lawsuit with Fort Hood families who claim the properties are poorly maintained and, in some cases, unsafe to live in.
”There is pervasive mold throughout the properties. There is rampant water leaks, and there’s insect infestations, and those conditions are destroying the household goods and personal effects that those people have, as well as making them sick,” explained Ryan Reed, attorney for the families.
With some barracks originally built as far back as the 1950s, mold is something the Army says they have to deal with regularly due to outdated HVAC systems.
”So we end up spend a lot of time and money repairing those systems. They are more given to producing mold. If we have mold in any barrack on Fort Hood, we take it seriously,” said Fort Hood Public Works Director, Brian Dosa.
However, the attorneys representing over 100 Fort Hood families say Fort Hood Family Housing is not taking the mold issue seriously.
”The manner in which Fort Hood Family Housing operates has destroyed their personal effects. It has injured their children, and Fort Hood Family Housing, by continuing to fight the process as they are, is continuing to rub salt in the wound,” said Reed.
Fort Hood Family Housing declined to comment on ongoing litigation, but say they are dedicated to improving the properties.
”We’re improving what we’re doing here on Fort Hood. We’ve hired an additional 35 employees, including an environmental care manager, a customer care manager to deal with residence, and also a community events manager,” said Albus.
The issues surrounding the barracks on Fort Hood is something the Army is working on from their end.
The Army has approved a $1.1 billion capitol investment with Lendlease to improve housing on six installations, including Fort Hood.
Army officials say the investment will allow Lendlease to accelerate their previously planned sustainment program at Army installations by more than 10 years.
According to the Army, 12,000 existing homes Fort Hood, Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, Fort Wainwright, Fort Drum and Army housing on Oahu will be improved. Over 1,200 new homes will also be built on Fort Hood, Fort Campbell, Fort Knox and Fort Wainwright.
Fort Hood will receive a "significant portion" of the total investment.
“Under the guidance of Army senior leaders to ensure readiness of our force and quality of life for Soldiers and their families, we have reached an extraordinary milestone with Lendlease,” said Gen. Ed Daly, commander of Army Materiel Command. “This additional investment will go a long way in improving the quality of homes for Soldiers and their families.”
“Today, the Army announced that Fort Hood will receive significant funding to upgrade and build new housing for enlisted Soldiers Work will begin in summer 2021. Thank you to the Soldiers and Families who participated in various town halls, focus groups, and surveys; this accelerated funding is a direct result of your input during those open forums. I look forward to seeing our Soldiers and their families in modern housing that they can be proud to call home. People are our greatest asset, and we owe it to the Soldiers and families who work and live here to provide them the best housing possible,” said Lt. Gen. Pat White, III Corps commanding general.
"Fort Hood is excited to learn of additional monies earmarked toward renovating our existing housing as well as new construction as announced today by the Department of the Army and LendLease. We look forward to continuing work with our partners at Fort Hood Family Housing to provide quality housing for our Soldiers and their families," said Col. Jason Wesbrock, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hood commander.
Over the past decade, Fort Hood has spent close to $500 million to renovate 47 of their 99 barracks, and say they are spending millions more to continue improvements.
”The 22 we have under renovation now, that’s about $280 million. So, it’s about $12 million to $15 million per barrack to do that renovation,” said Dosa.
The renovations include changing the structure and layout of the barracks.
”We’re totally gutting the buildings down to the concrete frames and rebuilding back the office space on the first floor and the first second and third floor bedrooms,” explained Project Engineer for Army Corp of Engineers, Andy Heinchon.
The idea is to take the barracks into the modern age with single and two bedroom apartment-style units. There will be shared common areas, like kitchen and bathroom, but each soldier will have their own bedroom.
Even with all the repairs and renovations being done to Fort Hood barracks, officials acknowledge that things are not yet up to par.
”Given the number of soldiers we have at Fort Hood that are barracks requirement, our condition is probably the worst in the Army in terms of the condition of our barracks and the shortage we have on barracks,” said Dosa.
A large number of soldiers are still living in barracks that need major repairs. Due to a barracks shortage, over 3,000 soldiers have received a waiver to live off-post.
The renovation projects are expected to take decades to complete.
Soldiers living in the barracks can now download the Army Maintenance Application, or ArMA, to report barracks issues directly to Fort Hood Public Works.