Responding to a Department of Defense mandate that all military bases improve housing conditions, Fort Leonard Wood has hired more staff and made it easier for soldiers and their families to report problems.
The base is reporting those changes have reduced complaints and sped up repairs.
A national survey early in 2019 showed many problems with military housing, including mold, asbestos and electrical hazards.
Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks, 140 miles southwest of St. Louis, was not cited as one of the worst in the country but still made changes in line with the national directive.
Col. Eric Towns, who is in charge of all of the buildings at Fort Leonard Wood, called quarterly town hall meetings where residents could voice concerns.
At the first meeting in February, 30 residents of the base’s more than 1,800 homes showed up. In April, there were 15. This past week, there were five.
“I believe the decline in attendance is at least in part because the residents have such a variety of other ways to get their concerns to me and to their chains of command,” Towns said.
Those other ways include a smartphone app provided by Balfour Beatty Communities, a private company that partners with Fort Leonard Wood to own and operate the houses.
Both the Army and Balfour Beatty hired additional staff to inspect houses, respond to complaints and make repairs.
Towns said the fort has always had good houses and services, but the national mandate has helped improve things.
“What has changed is the residents’ confidence that when there is something wrong with their house, the quality of the maintenance is going to be better,” Towns said.
Fort Leonard Wood is also making upgrades that are outside the directive from the Department of Defense. For example, they are replacing all window blinds, some 23,000 sets, with cordless versions.
“That’s to eliminate any choking hazard for young children living in these homes,” Towns said. “It’s about safety, and the kind of thing we need to do.”
At the national level, the Department of Defense is still working on a Housing Bill of Rights for all military personnel living on base.
At Fort Leonard Wood, Towns said they will not stop making improvements until every resident is satisfied.
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