Army Col. John Wilcox, the Fort Liberty garrison commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour, and installation public works employees move trash to alleviate the garbage overflow at the North Carolina installation.

Army Col. John Wilcox, the Fort Liberty garrison commander, Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour, and installation public works employees move trash to alleviate the garbage overflow at the North Carolina installation. (Jason Ragucci/U.S. Army)

Garbage dumpsters across Fort Liberty have been overflowing for weeks, forcing some soldiers to find other means of disposing of their trash, soldiers and officials at the North Carolina Army post said Tuesday.

Post officials on Tuesday blamed “unexpected equipment issues” with the contracted waste management company for the trash buildup. They said they were working to bring in new large trash containers for the overflowing garbage and working with other local companies to find “stopgap refuse support.”

“The current situation of trash buildup on the installation is unacceptable, and we are working to resolve the issue immediately,” said Army Col. John Wilcox, Fort Liberty’s garrison commander. “It is our obligation to provide and maintain safe, clean facilities for our soldiers, families and civilian employees. We take this situation seriously and are taking action to resolve this through a phased approach to mitigate this issue as expeditiously as possible.”

A soldier said Tuesday that dumpsters near his workplace had been overflowing for “at least several weeks,” and he had noticed trash bags and other garbage building up at locations throughout the sprawling installation, including near barracks buildings.

“It looks awful. It’s unprofessional,” said the soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You wouldn’t accept that anywhere else. We can’t accept that in the Army, either.”

The soldier, a noncommissioned officer, said some of the junior enlisted troops in his unit had started hauling trash off the installation in their pickup trucks. He said he did not believe they had been ordered by their commanders to do so but that they were just looking for some kind of solution.

“No one wants to live like that,” the NCO said.

Other soldiers told Task and Purpose, a military news website, that soldiers had been stomping down the trash in dumpsters to fit more garbage in them. One officer said he was worried he would eventually have to order his troops to clean up the overflowing trash, the news outlet reported.

Fort Liberty spokeswoman Cheryle Rivas said post leaders were not looking for soldiers to “pick up trash or solve waste management issues.” She said installation leaders were taking the issue seriously and working to resolve it.

Overflow containers should be in place across the installation in the coming days, according to a Fort Liberty statement. Trash pickup resumed on the post last week, but the contractor’s collection capacity cannot keep up with the garbage produced.

The trash issue comes as the Army — and the other military services — seek to improve quality-of-life issues for service members, who have long faced subpar housing, among other problems. Top Army and Pentagon officials have admitted that quality-of-life issues, including substandard housing, have likely contributed to the ongoing recruiting crisis, which has seen the Army miss its recruiting goals for two consecutive years.

Fort Liberty is the military’s largest base with a population of some 282,000 people, including some 50,000 active-duty troops. The base is home to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, its 18th Airborne Corps, Army Forces Command, Army Special Operations Command, 1st Special Forces Command, 3rd Special Forces Group, Army Reserve Command, the Army’s most elite unit known as Delta Force and the multiservice Joint Special Operations Command.

Like many other military posts, it has faced housing issues in recent years, including the 2022 decision to move some 1,200 soldiers out of 1970s-era barracks buildings on the post. That effort saw 12 of the Smoke Bomb Hill barracks buildings demolished and three renovated.

Last month, Fort Liberty issued a draft notice that it would soon seek solicitation from contractors for the installation’s refuse needs, federal contracting records show. It was not immediately clear Tuesday when a new contract would be issued.

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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