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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Wilson, Aviation Branch command sergeant major, speak with residents about their on-post living experience during a walking town hall through the Bowden Terrace neighborhood June 24. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Francis, Col. Robert J. Holcombe, Fort Rucker garrison commander, Wilson and Van Danford, Directorate of Public Work chief of housing, lead the group through Bowden Terrace during the walking town hall. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Francis speaks with residents during the town hall. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker’s new garrison commander is a big fan of the post’s housing walking town hall concept.

Col. Robert J. Holcombe, who assumed command of the garrison June 17, took an active role in U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker leadership’s third in a series of housing walking town halls by taking to the streets of the Bowden Terrace neighborhood June 24.

“This is a fantastic idea,” he said. “We get a different response when we bring Soldiers, families and communities into a theater or a fitness center for a town hall. People are a little more reluctant to talk in a big crowd, or they don’t want to say something in public. But when they can have that one-on-one conversation directly with leadership, it totally changes the game.

“We get more honest answers and more heartfelt emotion – and we get our residents an immediate response, as well,” he added. “COVID made us do things a little bit differently – and helped us think of doing things that we never thought to do before. And now we’re finding out that some of the new ways are actually better.”

Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, led the walk through Bowden Terrace and deemed it a success.

That success came in the form of gathering valuable feedback directly from residents while they were in their yards – at times even in their homes – and being able to take immediate action to help people with their issues, he said.

While the majority of the feedback was positive in relation to the overall quality of housing and the responsiveness of Corvias when issues did arise, some issues were brought up by residents directly to the general and his entourage: Holcombe; Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Wilson, Aviation Branch command sergeant major; Chester Witkowski, deputy to the garrison commander; Sgt. Maj. Jesus Goytia, Directorate of Public Safety sergeant major; Corvias and post housing officials; and leaders from units whose Soldiers live in housing.

Those issues included several instances of residents feeling their homes were not cleaned up to standards when they moved in, carpet quality and cleaning difficulties, a playground closed off for a lengthy time while awaiting repairs and a back yard with terrain features that result in standing water.

Francis spoke with the housing staff and assembled leaders after the town hall, and told them that while he is pleased with the quality of housing at Fort Rucker, he is never satisfied.

“It’s clear we still have work to do,” Francis said after the town hall. “Fort Rucker is the Home of Army Aviation where we train the world’s best aviators. We owe it to our Soldiers and their families to provide them with the best housing that we possibly can.”

During the town hall, Corvias representatives spoke immediately to each resident who had issues, and scheduled times for maintenance personnel to visit, and assess and address the problems.

Francis encouraged all housing residents to take part in future walking town halls, and also to let leadership know the positives and the negatives of their experiences in living on post.

“This is why we’re doing these walking town halls – we want your feedback,” he said, adding that residents don’t have to wait for a town hall if one’s not coming up again soon. “I encourage you to work with our housing folks with your issues, or if you don’t feel you’re getting the response you should, work through your chain of command. They’re committed to helping you – that’s why they’re out here tonight.”