Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has so far relocated about 200 permanent party and technical training residents as it tries to fix overwhelming mold problems with some of its dorms.
But in a release Monday, Brig. Gen. Laura Lenderman, commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio, said the work is far from finished, and it will likely be necessary to move more airmen.
Initial inspections of the technical training dorms at Lackland are now finished, and secondary inspections are under way, Lenderman said. Roughly three-quarters of permanent party dorm rooms across JBSA have been inspected, and 16 percent of those had mold, she said. Inspections of the last permanent party dorms should be finished by July 30.
Civil engineers from the 502nd are now working on 28 rooms in Building 1215 that were particularly affected by mold, and expect to finish by Aug. 8, Lenderman said. That includes thoroughly bleaching the rooms, repainting them, using dehumidifiers, removing carpet and replacing it with vinyl planks, and installing ceiling fans. Remediation for all of Building 1215 should be finished within two months, Lenderman said, and similar plans are in the works for other dorms.
“The health and well-being of our airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians at JBSA are essential,” Lenderman said. “Mold in living facilities is unacceptable. To residents who have voiced their concerns and brought attention to this much-needed call to action, I thank you.”
The father of an airman now living in one of the dorms said in an email to Air Force Times last week that his son and his fellow dorm residents previously scrubbed their rooms themselves trying to get rid of mold there, but it kept coming back.
After pictures surfaced on social media last week showing rampant mold in dorms at Lackland — and inquiries from Air Force Times, Lenderman launched the review of all 77 JBSA dorms, which can house 27,000 people.
But dissatisfaction with the base’s response to the problem appeared to be growing among airmen and their families. Commenters replying to Lenderman’s Facebook posts in recent days said airmen have been raising concerns about the mold situation for some time, and questioned why the base only took action after embarrassing photographs hit the Internet.
Other commenters questioned the base’s strategy for fixing the mold situation, arguing that ceiling fans, bleach and painting will do nothing to fix the problems unless the mold-ravaged sheetrock is taken out, and ventilation in the bathrooms are improved.
“Mold will stay EVERYWHERE,” a commenter name Chris Cox, who identified himself as a former airman, wrote on Monday. “This means painting is not even a bandaid fix. … Bleach does not clean mold. It only helps spread it. You have to stop addressing these things as a ‘quick fix’ and start addressing the root issues or you will [not] make progress.”
Lenderman said the roughly 200 residents that had to be relocated to other dorms at the base or to on-base lodging.
“We anticipate and are preparing to meet additional relocation requirements at Lackland,” Lenderman said. “Base leadership is actively working a plan that includes relocating residents to other on-base facilities and, potentially, off-base.”
Lenderman also said that the 502nd is working on a long-term campus improvement plan for its dorms and training facilities, alongside work to mitigate the problems in the short term.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.