Fort Stewart leaders, led by Command Sgt. Maj. Quentin Fenderson, the 3rd Infantry Division enlisted senior leader, held a stand down day with senior NCOs from various organizations to address mold concerns following soldiers voicing issues of mold to installation leaders and posting imagery of mold-filled rooms on social media platforms.
Fenderson stressed the mold stand down day was a “re-bluing of the force,” and stated this was the first step in a chain-teach campaign to reinforce leader presence and leader accountability. Fenderson said he holds himself and will hold the leaders accountable to fix the issues and increase barracks walkthroughs.
“The question is, why are we not checking our soldiers' rooms?” Fenderson said. “We’ve got be held accountable. We’re going to identify what we need to do. We’re going to fix it and we’re going to move forward. I’m going to walk through your barracks, I need you to do your jobs; I’m going to do mine.”
The stand down day focused on assessing the levels of mold impacting a unit footprint; addressing that mold; how to remediate the mold from the unit footprint; and maintaining an aggressive plan of action to ensure unit leadership does its part to provide the quality of life and living conditions soldiers[PD1] deserve.
Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Directorate of Public Works mold remediation specialist William McGovern said combating mold in the barracks is a team effort between the installation, the unit leadership, and the soldiers.
“We need to have interactions with the leaders to ensure that they're devoting their time and they are asking for the resources to make this a team effort. We have the mold team that does it, but it’s a team effort,” McGovern said immediately following the stand down.
Most of the mold issues are occurring in the Volunteer Army (VOLAR) barracks. There are 30 VOLAR barracks buildings totaling more than 2,300 rooms on post. They were built between 1977 and 1984. These barracks do not meet the current standards established by the Army for private space and amenities. One VOLAR barracks renovation was completed in July 2021. Four additional VOLAR barracks were funded in fiscal year 2020 and are currently in the demolition stage with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the construction agent.
Additional resources have been committed to improve the quality of life for soldiers at Fort Stewart. Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield VOLAR barracks are prone to mold because of outdated HVAC systems and the high humidity in this region.
"We have procedures and experts in place to address issues of mold, and we encourage Soldiers to report instances of mold in their barracks room immediately," said Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander Col. Manny Ramirez. "It is imperative that soldiers use the Army Maintenance Application at https://www.armymaintenance.com/arma to report any maintenance concerns with barracks so our DPW professionals can fix the problem."
Additional actions implemented immediately by installation and division leadership include detailed unit reporting on mold in unit footprint; directed frequency of leader checks on soldier barracks; and, like severe weather planning, provide unit leaders a predictable ramp-up toward combating mold when the mold threat is at its worst.
No soldiers have been permanently relocated or have reported health concerns regarding mold at this time. Fort Stewart officials said the base is committed to taking care of all its soldiers and ensuring their living conditions are to the highest standards now and in the future.