This week I want to let you know about the construction you see and what is planned for the near future. I also want to focus on financial readiness and taking care of Soldiers, and finally I want to talk about keeping lines of communication open.

What's on my mind:
New Construction: What's in the works? In alignment with my strategic plan, we continue to invest our construction dollars in direct support of basic training and quality of life on the installation. This summer we will award two major military construction projects. One is the second part of the new basic training complex on Hampton Parkway. The other is the first part of a two-part project supporting the Reception Battalion.

Since 2007, the Army has invested over $830 million to improve the living conditions for Soldiers in training through either new construction or major repair of existing barracks. Through this process we completed a major overhaul of all six "starship" style barracks, six "rolling pin" style barracks, constructed two new basic training complexes, and are almost half way complete with the third.

The first project scheduled for award this summer is the second part of the basic training complex on Hampton Parkway. This project will construct the final three of five total barracks for this complex. Once this project is complete in 2021, the basic training battalion in the relocatable buildings at the end of Jackson Boulevard will move into the new facility, and we will demolish these relocatable buildings.

The second project slated for award this summer will construct a new dining facility and clothing initial issue point in support of the Reception Battalion. This project is the first of a two-part project to provide the proper facilities to efficiently process over 45,000 Soldiers into the Army each year. The second part of this project, planned for 2020, will construct a new processing center. These projects come at the end of a series of projects that started in 2012 to repair each of the reception barracks.

As part of improving the quality of life on the installation, we are working to improve our force protection measures. Over the next 12 months we will complete three projects at the Forest Drive/Strom Thurmond Boulevard gate. These projects will install a wall to obscure the visibility of the Soldiers in training just south of the gate from the vehicles waiting to enter the installation. The next two projects will install rigid barriers along the roads and "pop up" barriers in the roadway to enable our gate guards to stop vehicles that enter the installation without authorization. This system will be similar to the barriers installed on Boyden Arbor Road last fall.

Finally, we will award a contract to repair mechanical and electrical components as well as cleaning the ductwork and other things in the seventh Single Soldier Complex barracks. We repaired the first six barracks with $3.6 million in projects that began in fiscal year 2016.

Way ahead: In alignment with our installation master plan, we continue to work to modernize our infrastructure. Though resources are tight, we will continue to focus on these key mission areas, ensuring Fort Jackson remains the preeminent provider of basic training for the Army, and that we provide a first-rate quality of life for Families and our workforce, keeping Fort Jackson relevant tomorrow and beyond.

Army Emergency Relief Supports Mission Readiness: One of my most important tasks as a commander is taking care of Soldiers, and that includes knowing how to get help for Soldiers who run into financial trouble. No Soldier wants to have financial problems, and when they hit it can be hard for them to know where to turn and what to do. Fast cash payday lenders may seem like a good idea when you're in a pinch, but they can also come with many downsides, including high interest rates and other aspects of predatory lending. Predatory lenders often seek out Soldiers. Excessive debt can affect a Soldier's security clearance, their overall peace of mind and ultimately their mission readiness.

Fortunately we have Army Emergency Relief that can provide Soldiers and their Families with an opportunity to obtain financial assistance in the form of a zero-interest loan or grant. Too many of our Soldiers have used non-bank borrowing methods for unexpected housing expenses, car payments or repairs, utilities, food, child care and emergency travel costs.

The high interest rates and fees charged by non-bank lenders sometimes are in excess of 400 percent, create undue financial distress and hinder an individual's personal and Family readiness.
When Soldiers have financial needs, they may not be able to focus on their duties. Soldiers now have easier, faster access to funds through the implementation of the direct access policy and changes to the commander's and first sergeant's Quick Assist Program (QAP). The direct access policy allows most Soldiers to receive AER assistance without receiving additional approvals from their chain of command.

Way ahead: The QAP provides the company commander and first sergeant with an expedient and valuable tool to help Soldiers resolve short-term cash flow issues. This program reinforces unit leader involvement in the resolution of their Soldiers' financial issues. It also deters Soldier use of payday loans, pawn shops, and title loan companies.

If you or someone else that you know is in need of financial assistance, I urge you to contact Army Community Service at 751-5256.

Feedback Surveys: Lastly, I want to maintain a dialog on communication. Specifically, I want to address the use of feedback mechanisms available to our Soldiers, Civilians and Families. Based on the current housing issues that we are experiencing, I urge every on-post resident to take the time to fill out any comment card, online or telephonic survey regarding housing. Whether the feedback is good, bad or indifferent, we need this feedback to gauge if conditions and responsiveness are getting better or remaining unchanged. This is not the time to be shy or unwilling to provide feedback.

On a similar note, programs like the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system is a useful tool to raise concerns or issues to the command. Positive and negative feedback is welcomed, but we need our community to remain engaged and provide that feedback. Issues will not be known unless they are reported and good behavior among our work force can't be rewarded unless it is known. Take the time to contribute to truly making our post a great place to work and live. Your voice matters!

Way ahead: This is a great start but I see the possibility of much more connection and genuine engagement moving forward. I challenge you to let me know what we are doing well and how can we make that even better.

Whether it is on my @FortJacksonCommandingGeneral page on Facebook or at the handle @FortJackson on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook -- we want to hear from you!