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Soldiers: Sill barracks infested by mold
Twenty soldiers, who spoke to USA TODAY early last week, say their complaints about mold and other problems went unheeded for months. They also said they had been ordered not speak about the conditions at Fort Sill.
Officers at the Army base last week ordered that ventilation ducts in two barracks be replaced and soldiers be surveyed, anonymously if they wished, about any concerns. Maj. Gen. Peter Vangjel, the commanding officer, said it was “inappropriate” for soldiers to be ordered not to talk about the mold.
“We’re going in and we’re going to take care of this for these guys,” he said over the weekend.
Images of mold growing on walls of wounded-soldier bedrooms at Walter Reed last year, along with issues of bureaucratic delays in health care, led to an overhaul of the Army’s wounded-care system. Warrior Transition Units (WTU) were created to expedite the care and treatment of wounded and ailing soldiers.
Army commanders testified before Congress on July 22 that the population of wounded and ailing soldiers in the units had doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 since the program’s inception in June 2007, straining resources at several installations.
Early last week, soldiers told USA TODAY that in April they first noticed what looked like layers of mold in flexible air ducts above their rooms when ventilation covers were removed to be cleaned. “[The duct work] was just caked black,” says Sgt. Willard Barnett, 51, an Iraq war veteran.
Some soldiers say they have been affected by air in their rooms.
“When I wake up in the morning, I have crud in my eyes, and I have like this slimy phlegm in the back of my throat,” says Spc. James Dodson, 26.
Vangjel and Forster said they were unaware of any complaints in April.
Bridgford says that Aug. 8 lab tests, taken in response to a July 25 inspector general’s review, show the barracks have “common mold” that is not hazardous. He also says some vents were cleaned earlier this year.
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