“This is the worst place I have ever been for base housing,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Blaine Jones who is the first Marine selected to be the Joint Operations senior enlisted advisor for U.S. Central Command. He has also had nine combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor.
Both he and Sgt. Maj. Jason Collins, a member of the elite Green Berets who has been deployed 18 times have complained about the mold problem with no results. Collins has served in combat in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, earning two Purple Heart medals and a Bronze Star for valor.
Each filed complaints with MacDill’s Inspector General’s office about mold and other problems with their on-base housing. They’ve also complained about the lack of adequate response by Harbor Bay at MacDill, the management company that operates 527 residential units at the base.
They are among about a half-dozen people who have come forward to talk about their mold issues in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times story highlighting the issue.
The Senate Armed Services Committee is set to hold a hearing Wednesday on this issue and the House Armed Services Committee will hold a closed-door roundtable session Thursday. The hearings were called after reporting by Reuters about problems at other bases across the nation.
According to the complaints, the housing conditions are deplorable and have caused numerous health problems for their families-stucco falling off the walls, blackened windows from the mold, and mold growing under the carpeting.
Harbor Bay officials did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations made by Collins, Jones and others who have come forward since the Times first reported the problems. The company has said in the past that housing concerns raised by the families were resolved — but the families dispute that. Officials at the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill’s host unit, said they cannot discuss individual cases. Congressman Mike Bilirakis is set to tour the base Feb. 21. Bilirakis was the first to call for hearings concerning the housing conditions on the country’s military bases, particularly MacDill.
Congress needs to act and act swiftly and decisively. Our military personnel deserve far better than this. As Sgt. Major Collins noted, “If me and my family are being treated this way, how are junior enlisted troops being treated?” Good question, it’s time we find out.