SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Language training is hard, but a recent upgrade to student barracks is making life a little easier for students at the Defense Language Institute's Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif.

The mission was clear, according to Greg Bridgestock, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Sacramento District project manager, who is overseeing the $17 million renovation. The plan: add living space and kitchens, improve privacy for shared rooms and upgrade just about everything. "The idea of the project was to improve the morale and welfare of the service members by giving them a nice space," Bridgestock said.

Starting with the floor plans, the Corps of Engineers added space by reducing the existing number of double-occupancy rooms from 44 to 21 and converting the rest to single-occupancy units. Then, it added kitchenettes, including cabinets, sinks with garbage disposals, two-burner electric ranges and microwave ovens. Bathrooms were completely remodeled with ceramic tile floors and new fixtures. Walls and ceilings - formerly exposed concrete - were resurfaced to improve comfort and reduce noise. Stand-alone closets in double rooms increased storage space and were arranged to provide privacy in sleeping areas. And new boilers and double-paned windows added energy efficiency while reducing long-term maintenance costs.

"The new barracks have greatly improved the quality of life of the Soldiers, and helped with energy conservation," said, Henry New, chief of Engineering for the Presidio's Department of Public Works. "They're so much better than the old barracks. The Soldiers are happy, morale is up, and we couldn't be happier with the results."

Work on the three barracks buildings began in March 2007. Students moved into the first building in December. The second and third barracks are scheduled to be completed in November 2009 and November 2010 respectively.

"There is a trend in today's Army to make the appearance of the barracks' interior both less institutional and more residential in nature, providing our Soldiers with comparable living accommodations to those available by the private sector off post," Bridgestock explained. "It gives me a sense of fulfillment to have had a part in assisting with that accomplishment and with an all-volunteer Army, and that this type of upgrade does not go unnoticed."