Leaders at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina on Wednesday pledged to go “room by room” and inspect its lodging facilities after a social media post exposed filthy conditions at several rooms at the base’s temporary living facilities.
A member of the Facebook group “The Wives of Seymour Johnson AFB” on Tuesday posted photos of the crumbling and unclean room her family had been assigned. Screenshots of the post were shared Wednesday on the unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco.
“WHY is this acceptable?” the post read. “WHY are military families ... forced to be ok with being put up in this ‘hotel’ and given no other options?”
Shortly after amn/nco/snco shared the post, Seymour Johnson’s Facebook page shared a message from Col. Brian Montgomery, vice commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, that said the photos showed “less than acceptable conditions” in several rooms of the Southern Pines Inn lodging facility on base, and promised to fix them.
“We, like [I] am sure all of you, were disappointed,” Montgomery wrote. “The 4th Fighter Wing’s mission is rooted in taking care of airmen and their families. In this case, we have let you down. The rooms we saw did not meet the standards that we demand of our lodging staff and ourselves as leaders on this installation and for that, we are sorry.”
In the original post, the author — whose name was redacted from the screenshots — said that her family demanded to switch rooms the first night they were at the temporary living facility because the room was so bad. She said her 10-month-old daughter’s knees, shins and feet turned black after she crawled on the carpet for 10 minutes, and asked “Is this carpet EVER cleaned?”
The author also said a chair in the room had “questionable stains and a layer of grease” on the arm rests.
She noted that many other families who live there also have small children, and that couches and carpet in these rooms should be periodically cleaned.
“I can’t stop my baby from crawling on the floor for 4 days straight,” she said.
Montgomery said base leadership has ordered a “100% facility inspection” by the base’s force support, civic engineers and wing leadership. Inspectors will go room-to-room to document any problems and make sure they are fixed quickly. He promised that the base would “work around the clock and transparently” to restore the faith of airmen and their families.
“Nothing like this should ever happen to any of our airmen and their families moving to or from Team Seymour,” Montgomery said.
In a statement emailed to Air Force Times, Montgomery said base leaders are working on solutions for the Southern Pines Inn problems, which could include improving processes or reviewing the training of housing professionals.
The Southern Pines Inn has 161 rooms for airmen and families to stay in when arriving to or leaving Seymour Johnson. The lodging facility is usually about 80 percent full, including both short- and long-term residents.
“We care about each person’s transition through our lodging facilities and will do everything we can to address each concern presented to us, regardless of rank or position,” Montgomery said. “In the meantime, we are having an extensive dialogue with those staying at the Inn on how to address any concerns they may have and ensure they are resolved expeditiously.”
The military has repeatedly come under criticism in recent years for substandard or shoddy housing for troops and their families on bases. In February, after months of mounting criticism of filthy or hazardous conditions in privatized base housing, top Air Force officials ordered all base commanders to quickly review all family housing units. And the Air Force said it was considering a “bill of rights” for residents, that could allow families to withhold rent or break leases if their housing is unsafe.
And in 2016, lawmakers expressed outrage over reports of black mold, collapsing roofs, and other unsafe and unacceptable living conditions for troops at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.