FORT STEWART – The Army’s top general praised the community for its support of Fort Stewart and its soldiers, and those soldiers for how quickly they responded when called upon to go to Europe.
Gen. James McConville, the Chief of Staff of the Army, visited the sprawling post Tuesday, getting an update on the 3rd Infantry Division’s fielding of new equipment, its innovation center and how the base is tackling mold issues in soldiers’ barracks.
Fort Stewart has been awarded the Army Community of Excellence seven times from 2004-19.
“What I’d like to do is thank the local community. It really makes a difference,” Gen. McConville said. “This is a wonderful community that supports our soldiers and families and I’d like to thank each and every one of them in the community.”
Gen. McConville, accompanied by Sergeant Major the Army Michael Grinston, also praised the 1st Brigade and its rushed deployment last year to Central Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The brigade had been home only a short while after a rotation to the Korean peninsula when the call came to headed to Europe.
“We’re real proud of the soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division,” Gen. McConville. “They do great things for the nation and I think it’s important for the Chief of Staff to come down to thank them and their families for what they do every single day to protect this nation.”
Gen. McConville recalled calling 3rd ID commander Gen. Charles Costanza and asking if he had a brigade ready to go.
“I asked if his brigade was ready, even though they weren’t supposed to be, and he said they were ready to go,” Gen. McConville said. “They did a great job of getting over there, getting into the equipment we had for them and reassuring our allies and partners of deterring any further aggression.
“I look at the difference the American soldier makes. They used to say wherever the American soldier went, freedom follows. But I would say to this brigade and the American soldier where they went, freedom stayed. The fact that our soldiers helped them really made a difference.”
But when many 1st Brigade soldiers returned to their barracks, they ran into mold in their rooms. In the months since, the base has worked to alleviate the problem and now only a few rooms are at what are called level 3, which is uninhabitable. At level 3, the mold covers at least 24 square feet.
Many of those barracks rooms had been shut and the humidity increased while they remained vacant and unchecked. Post officials also have discovered what works best in combatting mold. They use hydrogen peroxide, preferably, and vinegar, but not bleach.
Gen. McConville inspected a couple of barracks rooms, including a barracks space that was at level 3 mold.
One barracks building has been renovated to meet Army standards, with five more barracks currently in the renovation process. As part of the Army’s Facility Investment Plan, 23 additional barracks are scheduled to be renovated between now and fiscal year 2032.
“We’re putting a lot of additional resources into housing,” he said. “I saw some rooms that were not very good and some that were very good. What we want is for our soldiers to have quality barracks and quality housing that is commensurate with their service.”
Gen. McConville’s itinerary also took him to the Marne Innovation Center, where its lead software developer, Spec. Salem Ezz, has produced a mold condition awareness tool, or MCAT.
The app connects to sensors that report a barrack room’s temperature and humidity every half hour.
“We’ve worked on problems such as trying to get ahead of the mold problem to decoys and sensors out on the battlefield and everything in between,” said 1st Lt. Chris Aliperti, the division’s deputy innovation officer.
The 3rd ID’s 1st Brigade is breaking in new equipment, including the replacements for the Humvee and the M113 armored personnel carriers that first entered service during the Vietnam War. The 2nd Brigade is at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., and soldiers there are putting to the test some of the fixes that are a result of their work at the Marne Innovation Center.
Soldiers at the NTC are testing out a handful of solutions to problems that were first hatched at the Marne Innovation Center.
“We’re getting great results back so far,” 1st Lt. Aliperti said. “When they get back from the National Training Center, they’ll have a whole slew of new problems that we have to start the whole thing over again.”
Gen. McConville praised the work and initiative of the soldiers at the Marne Innovation Center.
“We want our soldiers innovating across the force and what they are doing here is very significant,” he said. “It’s making a difference. We want to make sure we have the best equipment and best technology for our soldiers.”
The capability and capacity to come up with fixes for issues with equipment or even living spaces reflects upon the soldiers, the Army’s top general said.
“What is says to me is we have the world’s greatest soldiers and that makes us the world’s greatest Army,” Gen McConville said. “We’re competing for their talent. You can be anything you want to be in the Army – in fact, you can be all you can be.”
The Army, which has faced a recruiting shortfall, is returning to one of its most popular and memorable slogans to attract recruits. The Associated Press and the Army Times reported the branch missed its fiscal year recruiting goals by 25%, or 15,000 soldiers.
Now the Army is coming back with its “Be all you can be” motto.
“Why wouldn’t you bring back success?” Gen. McConville said. “ I think it describes what we want for the parents of the young men and women – they want their kids to be all they can be. Three of my kids served in the military. I want my kids to have an opportunity to do great things in life and to have an impact on something bigger than themselves. I don’t think there is a better place than the Army to be all that you can be.”