Barracks under construction in Bahrain to house junior servicemembers
By HENDRICK SIMOES | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 20, 2015
MANAMA, Bahrain — Barracks being built on Naval Support Activity Bahrain should give the U.S. Navy here the capacity to house most of its unaccompanied E-4 and below servicemembers on base.
The Navy presence in Bahrain, which includes the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters, has vastly grown since 2008. Over the past seven years, the base population has more than doubled, from about 3,000 to 8,300 U.S. personnel. The vast majority of personnel live off base, including E-4s and some E-3s.
The new barracks will have 241 units that will accommodate 482 servicemembers. Each unit — the Navy is using the term apartment — is roughly 460 square feet with two bedrooms, a small kitchen and a bathroom.
The current barracks accommodate 800 personnel — mostly Marines and sailors. “I am 100 percent capacity on the barracks on base,” with new personnel arriving every day, said NSA Bahrain commander Capt. David Meron.
“The vast majority are young and junior. They need to be staying on base, not out in town ... until they figure out a little bit about the military way of life,” he said.
Base officials also stress force-protection concerns and the cost of housing junior servicemembers on the economy. It costs more than $900,000 a month to house 482 junior servicemembers out in town. At that rate, officials estimate the new barracks will pay for itself in about six years.
Construction began in March of 2013 and is progressing more slowly than expected. August is the estimated completion date on paper, but officials close to the project said that construction will realistically finish in December, with the first servicemembers moving into the building in March of next year.
Officials cite the skill level of the local labor force as an issue, with some aspects of the construction needing to be redone. Officials with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that quality and safety are a priority, as is ensuring that taxpayers’ money is well-spent.
Once the barracks are completed, Navy officials said, they don’t plan on forcing junior servicemembers already living in town to move onto base; instead they will steadily fill the barracks as E-4 and below personnel arrive for duty in Bahrain.
The barracks should meet the expectations of today’s sailors, said Chief Petty Officer Johnny Heintz, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command liaison for the project. He said the housing is quite cushy compared with what was common when he joined the Navy 18 years ago. “We’re calling them apartments for crying out loud, and that’s what it feels like.”
“It’s going to be very good,” Meron said.
Each servicemember will have a 154-square-foot bedroom and share a bathroom and a small kitchen area, which will include a ministove and two refrigerators. Each suite will also have standards amenities such as Internet access, phone and cable connections, and each unit will have its own air-conditioning control.
The building will have several laundry rooms and bicycle storage areas. There won’t be room for recreational activities, but officials said there are already several projects underway across the base aimed at improving such facilities for servicemembers living on base.
Officials tout the fact that the building will be environmentally friendly and one of the few in Bahrain certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Solar panels on the roof will heat the water, and water from sinks will be recycled for irrigation use.