A town hall event at Howze Auditorium Tuesday afternoon discussed housing on the installation and reaffirmed the commitment of the post’s leaders to their residents.
Coming four months after a series of four town hall events held in this same venue to address issues and concerns of Fort Hood residents, Tuesday’s event featured two new senior leaders, who made it clear that while progress has been made since February, the commitment to providing quality housing for Fort Hood residents remains a priority.
“We’re all on the same team. If you’re sitting in this auditorium, you’re on my team and I’m on your team. Period. We’re all shooting for the same thing here – take care of our Soldiers, civilians and Family members. Period. That’s our charter,” Lt. Gen. Pat White, commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said in his opening remarks to approximately 100 Fort Hood residents, and an equal amount of command teams in attendance. “If we find out that something in the process or system isn’t doing that, then we aggressively pursue solutions to fix it.”
White also discussed the Tenant Bill of Rights, currently being crafted at the Department of Defense.
“This Tenant Bill of Rights,” the general said, “is going to put it back in your hands to hold us accountable … and I think that’s important.”
He encouraged residents to weigh in on the process through a Bill of Rights survey currently being conducted. Residents should have been contacted via email, but can also reach out to take part in the survey by emailing BillofRightsFeedback@celassociates.com. Residents should provide their installation and address when reaching out to take part in the survey.
Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hendrex, III Corps and Fort Hood senior enlisted advisor, spoke about the importance of the role of the Community Life Noncommissioned Officer program, noting that since February’s town hall sessions, CLNCOs have been assisting newly-arriving Soldiers in the rank of sergeant and below secure their quarters on post and acting as “advocates during housing inspections.”
Following opening remarks, residents were given a progress report from post officials and representatives from Fort Hood Family Housing and Liberty Village, whose 300 units are operated under a separate contract.
Since the series of town hall sessions in February, resources have been allocated to tackle maintenance issues in post housing. Fort Hood Family Housing, operated by Lendlease LLC, has hired 26 new employees, mostly maintenance technicians.
“We plan to hire an additional 10-15 on top of that,” Mack Quinney, project officer of FHFH said during his update presentation.
Fort Hood Housing Chief Mark Hjuler also noted that his office has already added five of seven new employees focused on oversight of maintenance issues.
“These individuals are currently conducting quality assurance checks on 100 percent of all change of occupancy maintenance and Priority One (emergency) service orders,” Hjuler said. “The benefit in conducting the COM QA check is to ensure there are no outstanding work to be accomplished, and that the home is ready for occupancy. They also are performing quality assurance checks on five percent of the Priority Two and Three (urgent and routine) service orders to ensure work was completed to the customer’s satisfaction.”
Spc. Nathan Raymer, 87th Sapper Company, 20th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, and his wife, Karah, have been residents of Chaffee Village for nearly two years. They came to Howze Auditorium Tuesday to get some answers.
“We’ve had a bunch of issues with our home,” Nathan said, “and people haven’t been replying to our requests.”
The couple said they’ve had numerous work orders put in on their home, but were not satisfied with the slow response. The couple, both originally from Belleville, Illinois and married for three years, were moved into a hotel on post this week when mold was discovered in their quarters.
“We weren’t given a timeline on when we can go home,” Karah said.
When the floor was opened for questions, Karah’s hand shot up along with dozens of others. She was called on first. She asked why air quality testing of their residence wasn’t done prior to this week, when air duct work and mold remediation efforts forced them from their home.
Quinney told the couple that it is standard procedure not to conduct air quality testing until after duct work has been completed. He said testing must be completed either prior to, or after maintenance on air ducts.
The question and answer session brought out many more issues from residents, most addressing health concerns stemming from mold discovered in on-post quarters. The event lasted two hours beyond its scheduled time. Afterward, residents came down to the front of the auditorium to meet face-to-face with Fort Hood senior leaders and housing representatives.
Col. Jason Wesbrock, who took command of U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood in May, served as the moderator of the event.
“All of the stories that were told today were filled with emotion for all the right reasons,” Wesbrock said following the event, “because it affects our Soldiers and their Families. It affects all of us because we live here and we are charged with taking care of our Soldiers and their Families and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Wesbrock said communication is a key element in addressing these issues, noting that each village will be holding its own town hall events with residents and their sponsoring brigade command teams.
“The way forward is to continue highlighting the issues, making sure we understand what they are, and then going back to our housing partner and holding them accountable,” Wesbrock said. “There’s some other challenges that were highlighted up here with communication … that I will take on and we can fix (that). If it’s a communication issue, it’s feedback to the right folks and we’ve already talked with some of them about how we can get the feedback to them.”