More than 1,000 Fort Bragg Soldiers Displaced After Surprise Decision to Evacuate Old, Moldy Barracks

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Some 1,200 soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be displaced due to a sudden decision to evacuate several barracks after an inspection last week by Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, who found the buildings were unlivable, Army officials announced Thursday.

A dozen 1970s-era barracks are set to be demolished at the Smoke Bomb Hill area, impacting a wide roster of units, including U.S. Special Operations Command. In the meantime, Fort Bragg commanders will audit all available space in other barracks for those displaced soldiers to move into -- possibly forcing troops to relocate to areas far from their units and those they work with.

“The relocations will be a deliberate, phased approach,” a statement from the service said. “Army leaders have committed substantial resources to address the barracks issues to ensure our Soldiers are taken care of throughout the process.”

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There is no timeline for new barracks to be constructed.

Yet the buildings have long suffered from mold issues leaders have seemingly known about for years, mostly a result of the barracks having half-century-old air conditioning that frequently gets clogged and then leaks. The cost of repairing or outright replacing the air conditioning systems could be so exorbitant the Army deemed it better just to construct new buildings.

Mold and other quality-of-life issues have long plagued barracks, often prompting soldiers to take desperate actions to find living arrangements -- with reports of rushed marriages, among other tactics. The poor barracks quality across the Army is seen by senior leaders as a key exacerbating factor for mental health issues among the rank and file.

Exposure to mold can lead to a long list of health ailments, ranging from flu-like symptoms to difficulty breathing and fungal infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon

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