Fort Stewart installation leadership and engineering professionals gathered in a Directorate of Public Works’ conference room March 3 to chart the course of a future barracks construction project.
Eight Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers subject-matter experts joined around 20 Fort Stewart leaders and public works experts to plan the $105 million, 360-bed barracks on the installation.
The new barracks’ design is 15% complete and is expected to be completed by spring 2024, said Roger Ruppe, technical lead, Savannah District Corps of Engineers. Advertisement for construction bids is expected by summer 2024, and construction will be completed by the end of 2027.
“The focus is on getting more attractive, healthier barracks,“ Ruppe said.
The key issues of the charrette were the size of the Soldiers’ rooms and mold mitigation. Both of those issues speak directly to quality of life and the responsibility the Army has in providing the best possible means for Soldiers, said Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield garrison commander Col. Manny Ramirez. Lessons learned from barracks mold issues across the military need to be considered, and systems to monitor humidity need to be included.
“When we build the new ones, we need to incorporate a lot of the things we’re really just building in flight right now to mitigate mold and humidity,” Ramirez said. “We live in the Coastal Empire. Humidity is the enemy of us and the friend of mold. This is something we need to be conscious of.
“We’re super excited that we’re actually going to get new construction on this installation.”
The site for the new barracks is at a triangle of land near Fort Stewart’s Exchange in the vicinity of Harmon Avenue and roads Hase and Lindquist. The design is an enclosed building with breezeways and a charge-of-quarters desk, according to Corps of Engineers designers. An open space sits in the center of the barracks.
Kyle Wemett, Fort Stewart DPW planning and engineering division chief, said the most likely units that will occupy the barracks once they are completed is the 385th Military Police Battalion or the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters, Headquarters Battalion. The Volunteer Army barracks those units currently occupy will undergo renovation once vacated.
No one wants to live in old barracks that have been in the inventory since the 1970s said Ramirez. Once renovated, the VOLAR barracks have 200 square feet per Soldier.
“We’re renovating the old barracks and bringing them up to modern standards,” he said.
Getting the design right and completing the construction project are vitally important to the installation, especially since the installation is short 1,500 barracks spaces, Wemett said.
“There’s lots of moving parts on things like this,” he said.
The new construction barracks will have more than 500 square feet per Soldier.
“The Army standard has grown leaps and bounds,” Kyle said.
Having quality barracks affects recruiting and retention, Ramirez said. With the current lull in recruiting and retention, providing a living space Soldiers want to come home to because it’s spacious and inviting. We want to make sure they have quality housing.”
“There is no higher priority of the Army leadership than quality of life at every installation,” Ramirez said. “By being part of the planning, we’re emphasizing that quality of life. Getting in on the early stage of planning ensures we can mitigate any concerns, especially with mitigating mold.”
The layout for rooms by rank is private to corporal will live in four-bedroom, two-bath suites, and sergeant and above will live in two-bedroom, one-bath suites. Each setup will include a common area with a kitchen and full-size washer and dryer. The bedrooms are roughly 140 square feet each.
Having a hand in the design of a barracks like this is a testament to the bonds between the installation and the Corps of Engineers, Ramirez said.
“I appreciate the partnership we have with the Corps of Engineers,” he said. “You’re like an extended family member.”