FORT LEE, Va. – Post leaders made themselves available to residents of Jackson Circle, a community of 174 duplexes mostly accommodating junior-enlisted families, during a third Walking Town Hall event here July 7.
Discussions throughout the command visit were focused on resident satisfaction with housing conditions and ways to further enhance quality of life for service members and their families living on the installation.
Walking in two groups on either side of the street – one led by Col. Karin L. Watson, Fort Lee garrison commander, and the other by Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general – the entourage repeatedly stopped to chat with residents and identify their concerns.
Other participants in the Walking Town Hall groups included Command Sgt. Maj. Tamisha A. Love, garrison CSM, and representatives of Fort Lee Family Housing, the Directorate of Emergency Services, Fort Lee Family and MWR, the Safety Office; the Garrison Chaplain’s Office; and the Installation Housing Office.
“This is an important way to contact the community directly and hear what they’re concerned about,” Simerly observed as the event got underway. “We want to be able to answer their concerns as much as we can and be diligent in following up.”
Of primary worry for residents was the recent announcement of gate hour changes, including the elimination of a security guard at the entrance of their housing area. Post leaders pointed out that it was the result of funds being discontinued. Law enforcement officials noted their ongoing efforts to protect the community have not diminished. They described Fort Lee as a safe community with a long tradition of excellent force protection and emergency services support.
Other concerns included noise from the Ordnance School’s morning physical training and the square footage of the duplexes and their garages.
Residents reported they are generally happy with the modernized appliances inside, the maintenance response times and the overall vibe among neighbors in the community.
“Jackson Circle is the best living situation I’ve had since I’ve been in the military,” commented Cpl. Tycorey Dudley, a human resource specialist with the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade. “At my last duty station, there was more space, but the quality wasn’t as good and the (maintenance) response times took two weeks. Here, I called, and repairs came the next day.”
Jackson Circle is the oldest community in the Fort Lee Family Housing inventory, according to Al Williams, housing division chief for Fort Lee.
“We decided at year 25 that it was time to renovate and bring that up to the newest standards,” he said of a recent Jackson Circle renovation project. “It was an 18-month process. We went in and basically gutted the majority of the home, rebuilding it with an open-floor plan, new appliances, granite countertops, luxury vinyl tile, updated HVAC systems, replacement siding in some areas, and garage door openers in every garage. The bathrooms have the best fixtures, new doors, new windows … the whole vision was just making it a really good product for the families.”
Most residents who spoke with the senior leaders approved of the manner in which their homes have been modernized, and they appeared happy overall with their community. There were a few, though, who still felt there is room for improvement.
“The [renovated homes] here at Jackson Circle look nice, and they’re open,” said Lashawn Morris, a medical support assistant with the Department of Veterans Affairs and wife of Army Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris, a small arms instructor at the Ordnance School. “It definitely looks updated, but it’s still small like the one-car garage. I don’t think it’s up to the industry standard of what a modern, two-parent working family would need now.”
Residents expressed that it is a nice gesture for leadership to come to their community and listen to their concerns.
“Talking to the general and colonel, I felt like they asked the right questions, and I feel like they actually want to do something about it,” Staff Sgt. Morris said. “I’m pretty sure they have other things to do, but being here shows they are concerned with our quality of life. I really appreciate that. I feel like we’re being heard.”