October 31, 2007 By Jason Flanagan, Examiner Staff Writer
Army Spec. Amanda Burns has had her share of military housing nightmares. “There was lead paint, hard water, bug infestations,” said Burns, who was stationed at three bases prior to moving her husband and two children to Fort Meade last week. “The housing at those bases was horrible. Simply horrible.”
The U.S. Army wants to improve the quality of life, such as housing, for its soldiers and their families with the Army Family Covenant, a $1.4 billion investment in family and youth service at all Army installations.
Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, who is in charge Army facilities in the Washington Metro area, said no funding is committed and many operations were on a “shoe-string budget” even though the Army has provided services such as daycare, housing and job placement,
“This covenant is a statement of the leadership ... that a steady stream of funding will occur for family services,” Rowe said.
The specifics of how the money will be spent have not been determined, though Fort Meade officials have said about 500 houses will be renovated, and two new community centers will be constructed on the fort in Anne Arundel.
The amount of housing won’t change, but the quality will, said Fort Meade commander Col. Kenneth McCreedy.
The community centers feature game rooms, pools, computer labs and a kiosk to let families send photos and video e-mails to loved ones overseas free of charge.
“I think the services here are great, but the only thing I’d improve is awareness,” said Keisha Barrett, 28, who along with her husband Sgt. Neville Barrett live at the fort. “Some parents don’t take the time to read the information that is out there. Fort Meade has a lot to offer them.”
Similar efforts would likely come to Aberdeen.
“We’re officially, openly committing ourselves to make sure our soldiers and their families get what they need — to make sure we’re not shortchanging them,” said George Mercer, APG spokesman.
“It’s a good public commitment, like renewing your wedding vows.” At a glance
U.S. Army efforts to support its families:
31,000 soldiers to receive new or renovated barracks
171 new Family Readiness Support assistants
15 new and renovated commissaries
22 new child development centers
Invest more into post-traumatic stress counseling and mild traumatic brain injury rehabilitation SOURCE: U.S. Army Staff Writer Matt Santoni contributed to this story.