By Mr. Mike Bowers (Leonard Wood)August 4, 2016
Most Single Soldier quarters of today's Army and especially those on Fort Leonard Wood have little resemblance to the open-bay, two-to-a-room concept, elongated, drab-colored Army barracks of the past.
Fort Leonard Wood's garrison command sergeant major said the quarters resemble apartments one would find in the local community.
"Single Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood have some of the best housing in the Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tyson Goolsby, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood.
There are 1,236 rooms in 110 buildings situated in three locations available for single Soldiers, E-5 and below and dual military Soldiers whose spouse is assigned to a different duty station.
Of those spaces, 96 are located in two buildings that are currently unoccupied pending maintenance.
The 880 rooms in the "1900 area" are two-person suites with private bedrooms for each Soldier, along with a full kitchen, washer and dryer and a shared bathroom.
The SSQs located along Indiana Avenue are former Family housing units and contain private bedrooms, a full kitchen with washer and dryer, a shared bathroom, and living and dining rooms.
Despite the impressive living conditions, occupancy is not up to the Army-wide rate of 95 percent. Fort Leonard Wood's occupancy rate is approaching 50 percent.
"A lot of this is due to the inactivation of one major command and the 92nd Military Police Battalion," Goolsby said. "Additionally, the numbers also reflect the unoccupied buildings awaiting maintenance."
Goolsby said the garrison is exploring ways to improve the occupancy rate.
"We're looking at some of the older buildings for possible demolition to allow us to focus maintenance dollars towards upkeep and improving the newer facilities," Goolsby said.
Garrison Policy 33, dated Feb. 25, states all single E-1s to E-5s will reside in Single Soldier Quarters unless there is a circumstance that prevents them from doing so, according to Goolsby.
"We will look a lot closer at any and all exception-to-policy request for SSQ-eligible Soldiers to reside off the installation," he said. "An exception to policy would have to come through the garrison command for approval."
Various projects, such as acquiring bicycle racks for each building, are ways to further improve the quarters, according to Goolsby.
He said the vast amount of improvements are targeted for the "1900 area" and includes new shower heads, replacing bedroom flooring, repainting, and repairing rain guttering.
He even said residents asked for installation of bird-deterrent spikes, as "the native birds find the housing more attractive than the trees we prefer they nest in."
Goolsby said the are advantages for junior enlisted Soldiers residing in single Soldier quarters.
"For the Soldier's unit, residency provides better command and control," he said. "There is more quality of life time after work due to short commuting distances. They are living with their peers and close to all the on-post amenities."
One can't take for granted that everyone has a driver's license or a vehicle, and living on post allows greater mobility by walking or with a bicycle, according to Goolsby, who added it is the leader's responsibility to ensure Soldiers are living in a safe and healthy environment.
Leaders need to keep Soldiers safe, not only at work, but also where they live, he said.
"I am in the SSQs a lot," Goolsby said, adding his visits are focused on spot checking physical security, cleanliness and enforcing the un-attended guests policy.
"The situations can impact our Soldiers in a negative way," he said. "We make visits to become aware of situations and work to correct them."
The command sergeant major said Fort Leonard Wood's SSQs make others pale in comparison.
"Single Soldiers should realize it doesn't get much better than this. Our housing is very good," he said. "We have a garrison team that has worked hard to provide these facilities and continues to work hard to keep them in great condition."