FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- After receiving minimal to no interest in previous housing town halls in the post theater, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker leadership took the town hall directly to residents’ homes May 6.
The results were much better, according to Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general.
Francis, along with Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Wilson, Aviation Branch command sergeant major; Col. Whitney B. Gardner, garrison commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua Jr., garrison command sergeant major; leadership from the 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment; and representatives from Corvias and the Directorate of Public Works Housing Office all walked through the Allen Heights neighborhood to speak with residents at the neighborhood center and at their homes to find out what issues they may have or feedback on what is being done right.
“We thought this was a better method to get people to talk to us where they live and to see what their issues are,” Francis said. “The good news is that people did come out, and where we did have issues we were able to get after them and fix them immediately. And we had just as many people tell us they’re happy to be living on Fort Rucker and that the response they get from Corvias to issues they may have is immediate – they are very pleased with the service they receive.”
Several residents did take advantage of the opportunity to speak with senior leadership to bring up issues with their homes. The commanding general then worked with the on-hand Corvias representatives to send maintenance workers to address those issues as soon as the residents returned home.
Francis said that he’s so impressed with how this first event of its kind went, he’s planning to do it again.
“We were just discussing how we’re going to do more of these in the different housing areas on Fort Rucker because we want to ensure that not only are we doing world-class training at Fort Rucker, but that our people are living in world-class housing, as well,” he said.
But residents’ participation is key, the general added.
“Come out and tell us what you think – good or bad,” Francis said. “If we don’t know about it, we can’t address it. This method of getting out there where people live is extremely effective – you get direct access to the commanding general and command sergeant major of Fort Rucker, along with our housing right with us to immediately fix whatever issues you have.”
The walking town hall accomplished exactly what leadership intended for it to do, according to Gardner.
“It was a blast,” he said. “There was a second lieutenant in flight school out in front of his house cleaning the wheels of his car and when he looked up he had a two-star general there asking about how things were going for him living in housing.
“We enjoyed getting out there and getting good feedback from the residents – we also received some great suggestions,” the colonel added. “It was nice to walk through the neighborhoods, and see people out there and kids playing.
“For town halls, this is the format that we will use in the future,” he said. “We expect to do another one in June in Munson Heights and probably in Bowden Terrace in July. It may not be monthly forever, but we want to get out and canvas all of the neighborhoods as quickly as we can.”
The garrison commander also praised the 1-145th Avn. Regt. unit leadership for participating in the event.
“That unit engagement and ownership of the quality of housing for their Soldiers is so critical,” Gardner said, adding that garrison support can only go so far. “When you have unit leaders engaged at all levels – company commanders, first sergeants, battalion-level leaders, brigade-level leaders – it’s very impactful for those who choose to live on post to know they have their unit leaders there to support and defend them when they have issues. In my mind, the 1-145th Avn. Regt. is the epitome of what engaged leaders need to look like as it relates to housing.”
Both leaders agreed that the living experience on Fort Rucker is mostly a positive one for residents, but also that it could be better.
“We want this to be the best place to live. We want everyone to want to live on post for the quality of the home you get for the price, the amenities, the proximity to all the amenities on post – like the classrooms, flightlines and fitness centers – and the great support residents enjoy.”
Francis agreed with the colonel’s assessment and praised the housing team.
“I think Corvias is an outstanding partner here with us at Fort Rucker and we’re very happy with them,” the general said. “I am never satisfied, however. We know we can get better, we know we have areas to improve and that’s what we’re doing here – we’re finding out where those areas are and we’re getting after them immediately.
“We appreciate the teamwork between the garrison and housing, and most importantly, we’re thankful for all of the residents of Fort Rucker and their continued support of our mission here,” Francis said.