FORT BENNING, Ga. – In the first of its kind on Fort Benning, senior leaders with the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning walked through one of the installation’s nine neighborhoods in a walking town hall.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, MCoE commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. Derrick Garner, MCoE command sergeant major, Col. Matthew Scalia, garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Johnson, garrison sergeant major, met post officials in the Bouton Heights neighborhood to meet with residents and discuss their concerns.
The officials in attendance represented agencies that contribute to Soldiers’ quality of life: the Directorate of Public Works, Housing (RCI), the Villages of Benning, Directorate of Emergency Services, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Religious Services, Martin Army Community Hospital, Department of Defense Education Activity and Public Affairs.
The walking town hall changes the experience, Donahoe said, moving from a sterile environment to the neighborhood’s streets, so the group can see the area and decide how to allocate resources.
Each neighborhood on the installation has a different challenge, he said.
“This way we can go out, go into those neighborhoods specifically, and determine what it is we want to engage. ‘Are we doing the right thing by that neighborhood?’ ‘Do they have the right resources?’ ‘Is there something we specifically need to change?’
“There are things that directly tie to quality of life that each one of you have some responsibility for … it’s a great opportunity to get out. If we have residents who come out to talk to us … that’s an opportunity for us to engage,” Donahoe said.
“It’s all about our Soldiers, it’s about our families,” said Garner. “We talk about People First – Winning Matters. This is how we get after ‘People First.’”
Staff Sgt. Soo Jung Kim, a drill sergeant with 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, talked about the work order process for a leaking refrigerator.
This is considered an emergency work order, said Mike Snyder, who is in charge of maintenance for Villages of Benning, and a maintenance tech should respond within in an hour. However, the tech didn’t have the necessary part to repair the leak.
This neighborhood is a flat rate community, which means the rent is lower because of the age of the homes. Soldiers who live there pay less basic allowance per square footage, said Kirk Ticknor, acting chief of Housing, Directorate of Public Works. Soldiers can pocket some of their BAH by living in this neighborhood.
The next street over, Spc. Carletha Ingram, with 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, described the trash situation a “hot mess.”
The good news is she found out residents can get a second trash can if they need it by requesting it from the community manager. Bulk trash pickup is only once a month, but often residents don’t know when it is. Ticknor suggested putting up neighborhood signs the night before to inform the residents.
Wrapping up the town hall, the commanding general asked the group “How do we improve the quality of life?”
People choose to live in this neighborhood to make some money, Donahoe said. “But we can never allow ourselves to be slumlords. We have an innate responsibility to ensure that our housing areas … are livable, they have to be places where we would want our family to live …
“We all want the best for folks but this is an opportunity for us to look at it at the same time and talk about are there things we could better or really explain the realities of why things are the way they are and make sure we all subscribe to that. … This is about making sure we all understand what we’re doing and all agree that it’s the right way to do it.”
The next walking town hall is scheduled for January in the Norton Court neighborhood.