BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The busted front door, propped open at all hours of the night so the soldiers of barracks Building 8234 could get inside, is now repaired, and steps are being taken to streamline how quality-of-life concerns are reported to officials.
“We have a good system in place for managing and completing work orders. The key is getting work orders submitted,” said Ignacio Rubalcava, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison at Baumholder. “We will work to make it easier to submit them, and get the word out on how to do it.”
Soldiers at Building 8234 — home to the 47th Forward Support Battalion’s Company A — said earlier this week that they’ve made repeated complaints about living conditions at their building. Issues such as an inconsistent supply of hot water, insufficient cleaning supplies and dirty water have troubled soldiers there for months.
Those concerns, however, apparently never made their way up the chain of command.
On Thursday, following revelations about the sentiments of some of the soldiers in the building, battalion commander Lt. Col. Michel Russell walked the barrack-lined street, examining the facilities and inspecting inside. The complaints of soldiers had not been made known to him, Russell said.
“I want to confirm and verify what I’ve read with what my soldiers tell me,” Russell said, referring to Tuesday’s story in Stars and Stripes.
“The soldiers’ concern is my concern,” Russell said. “Any concern my soldiers have for their well being gets the full attention of this battalion and the brigade.”
Soldiers now say they can’t comment on the front door that’s fixed, the steps being taken to make it easier to make their complaints known or any other issue with the building. Following Tuesday’s story, in which residents of the building described problems with the facility, soldiers said they were told to refer questions from reporters through the chain of command.
However, Maj. Jason Kirk, executive officer for the 1st Armored Division, 2nd Brigade, said there is no such policy within the brigade. At the unit level, there were likely discussions that turning to the chain of command and not the newspaper is how to get problems resolved, he said.
“There’s a system in place to get things fixed,” Kirk said.
Late Friday afternoon, soldiers were busy cleaning the barracks. When asked whether it was the contention of the garrison that conditions at Building 8234 provide adequate quality of life for soldiers, Rubalcava responded: “We in the garrison and the unit’s chain of command are partnering to look over conditions in this building as well as others to ensure they meet the high standards our soldiers deserve. Where we find deficiencies, we will take immediate steps to fix them.”
The garrison declined to provide copies of all work orders submitted within the last 12 months. The Army said Building 8234 was last renovated in 1996, but would not provide information about what types of renovations were done and how those renovations compare with work done at other facilities.
“We are adequately funded for maintenance and repair of our facilities, and when we find something not up to standard, we take the necessary steps to fix it,” Rubalcava stated.
Russell, meanwhile, would not comment specifically on the situation at Building 8234, stating he needed to meet with soldiers. However, pointing to a new health clinic under construction across the street as an example, Russell said the well being of soldiers is top priority for commanders.
“We’re looking into everything,” Russell said. “The soldier is first.”