FORT BENNING, Ga. - Fort Benning's efforts to improve Family housing are continuing to show marked progress, including a shorter waiting list for homes and rising customer satisfaction ratings, officials told a housing town hall meeting here Dec. 3.
"Now, there's a lot of good news stuff going on," Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general of Fort Benning's U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence told an audience of several dozen residents inside the Army Community Service auditorium in building 7.
The waiting list for those needing a home "has gone down dramatically" since May, said Brito, thanks in part to the hiring of more maintenance staff and housing inspectors, among other factors, he said.
Fort Benning oversees more than 4,000 Family homes and embarked about a year ago on a campaign to improve housing services overall. The homes are managed day to day by The Villages of Benning, a private company.
Besides a shorter waiting list for homes, customer satisfaction is on a steady rise, according to results of The Villages of Benning surveys that check residents' satisfaction, officials said.
Asked to rate their satisfaction with how their work orders were handled, 91 percent of those who responded gave a rating of "good" or better, up from the 80 percent as of several months ago, according to The Villages of Benning. Those surveyed about their move-in experience gave a 98 percent "good" or better rating, up from 88 percent several months ago.
In addition, Fort Benning recently put in a new regimen of stringent housing inspections as well as a system of follow-up phone calls to residents to check whether repair work was done properly and they are satisfied, among other measures aimed at improving service.
But, Brito cautioned, there was still much work ahead in Fort Benning's top-level campaign to improve housing services.
"Now, I'll call this some scoring on the football field," said Brito, "but we're not going to spike the football. Because we're always going to continue to improve our foxhole, to put this in military terms."
Brito also called on residents to help the Army help them with their housing needs by making their thoughts known through a variety of avenues available to them.
Those include, but are not limited to, use of social media pages and the Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE, to which comments can be posted online or written on cards that can be left in drop boxes.
"I do want to ask your support on one area here - or a couple of them," Brito told the audience.
"Continue to be transparent," he said. "In all honesty, your feedback, good, bad and ugly, whether it's on the social media pages, ICE complaints, or just stopping in the commissary and dropping a note: 'Hey, sir, have you thought about this?' All those things are very helpful.
"So just understanding what our residents and our Families are thinking are very, very helpful," he said.
But Brito also put extra emphasis on making the most of an Army-administered housing survey that officials said was emailed to Fort Benning residents in recent weeks. Thus far, 11.2 percent of those who were sent the survey have responded, officials said.
"I also do want to ask your support, more formally, on the housing survey that you may have received," said Brito. "I personally took mine. I took the time to do it - five to seven minutes. I took my survey, gave my honest opinions as well."
Some residents have found that the steps they'd have to take to complete the survey amount to inconvenient "work," a resident told officials during the meeting.
Col. Matthew Scalia, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning, responded that such concerns were exactly what officials want to know about so they can seek improvement by sending the residents' concerns "to higher" echelons.