Just like airmen, members of Congress are not happy with the mold infestation plaguing Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
In light of recent reports, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday pressed officials selected for Defense Department post for answers.
"I recently learned that our airman at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar are being forced to live in potentially unsafe facilities, and may be getting sick from black mold exposure," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said during the nomination hearing. "Despite efforts by local command and repeated requests by our airmen, the situation has not been fixed," she said.
Airmen who recently deployed to the base told Air Force Times that the main issues pertain to the conditions the establishment only has control over: collapsing roofs, water and mildew in the walls, growing mold that has the potential to cause illness and stale, if not contaminated, water from the plumbing. Building materials at the base also cannot withstand the consistently humid environment.
"In the last month, approximately 100 National Guard members experienced unacceptable living conditions and I'm told this black mold is coming out of showers, it's in the bathrooms, it's in the curtains," she continued. Ayotte, whose husband served in the Air National Guard, has become a strong voice for the military in the Senate.
"Some of our airmen are becoming sick and having symptoms as a result of it."
In October, the Air Force said they consistently look into preventative measures to keep service members healthy. Airmen tasked with this duty, called "bioenvironmental airmen" from the 379th Expeditionary Medical Operations Support Squadron, conduct surveys and site visits to ensure members are protected "from occupational and radiological health hazards, as well as [maintain] compliance with industrial hygiene and environmental protection standards," according to a release.
While the the Air Force says major illnesses have not been identified recently, airmen returning stateside between December and February said that a handful of members experienced salmonella poisoning. Some also said they got sick from the water.
Brad Carson, the nominee to serve as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, responded saying he would look into it and promised to get her a response quickly.
Ayotte affirmed, "make sure our men and women aren't being made sick."
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.