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F. Neil Neeley / U.S. Army A newly remodeled barracks on Camp Humphreys in South Korea. The Area III Support Activity’s top noncommissioned officer recently reminded units that whether soldiers are in newer or older barracks, good daily upkeep is crucial to good living conditions.
F. Neil Neeley / U.S. Army A newly remodeled barracks on Camp Humphreys in South Korea. The Area III Support Activity’s top noncommissioned officer recently reminded units that whether soldiers are in newer or older barracks, good daily upkeep is crucial to good living conditions. (F. Neil Neeley / U.S. Army)

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — A few months ago at the Army’s Camp Humphreys, a unit first sergeant said some of his soldiers had become “jealous” because they felt their barracks weren’t as nice as some of the newer ones on post.

The first sergeant’s comments, made at a quarterly Camp Humphreys community meeting, brought a reply from the Area III Support Activity’s Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Frace.

Frace told the first sergeant the newer barracks in fact were quite old but recently were renovated. That any older building might not look the equal of a newer one was perhaps inevitable, he said.

Moreover, Frace said, the buildings occupied by the first sergeant’s soldiers were built just four or five years ago. What counted, Frace said, was that they all had the same Army standards on amenities and space allotments as other barracks, including those newly renovated.

But he made one other key point during the meeting, one he since has said will remain important as the U.S. military invests in tripling Camp Humphreys’ size and turning it into its main installation in South Korea in coming years.

Whatever a barrack’s age, Frace said, the ultimate factor that will decide the quality of life it affords will be the occupying unit itself.

“The installation has the responsibility to give you a building that meets the code and standard; once you occupy it you take pride and ownership in it,” Frace said in a recent telephone interview.

That means caring for everything from its landscaping to its bike racks, he said, so people don’t see the building and the unit motto hanging outside and say, “ ‘That unit, they’ve got some work to do.’ ”

Frace also repeated those points in informal conversations and e-mail traffic with some fellow noncommissioned officers and others at Camp Humphreys. Unit leaders should ensure that soldiers are cleaning barracks daily, with beds made and trash emptied, he said. And when something may need fixing, action should be taken to get it fixed.

“Don’t wait for the light to fall out of the ceiling before you report it,” he said.

Frace encouraged units to take advantage of a class from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays run by the Area III Support Activity’s self-help store. It teaches soldiers how to make simple repairs and also tells them which repairs they should not attempt, such as those involving electrical fixtures.

The installation’s public works department also has a monthly meeting to review work orders it receives from around the post, tracking which buildings need what repairs. Units should send representatives to those meetings, Frace said.

Also, he said, each unit should make sure it sets up and sticks to some internal procedure to ensure safety and repair problems are reported and corrected.

“It’ll only get better,” Frace said.

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