After a cockroach infestation was found at a North Carolina barracks, the Marine Corps said that it moved some troops out of the building and called in pest control, according to the installation and images reviewed by Military.com.
A spokesperson for the installation said that one barracks in the French Creek area of Camp Lejeune was affected and that at least one room of Marines was displaced from their housing after the discovery.
Images of the barracks showed what appeared to be cockroaches and bug feces, some of which lined drapes and splattered the areas behind appliances. Troops were called in over the weekend to clean the affected barracks, according to a service member there. They described the cockroach issue as an "invasion" and "infestation."
"According to the unit, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, they are aware of a barracks in the French Creek area where service members identified, reported and requested assistance on pest mitigation in their rooms," Nat Fahy, a spokesperson for Camp Lejeune, told Military.com on Monday.
Marines at the barracks reported a cockroach issue three weeks ago, Fahy said. Troops were given household sprays and traps to mitigate the issue, but a week later, the facilities manager requested formal pest control, which prompted the service to move some Marines out.
"While these barracks are the only ones we are aware of at this time, we also know this area is conducive to roaches and mold, so it's not unusual for our facilities maintenance work reception personnel to receive work tickets requesting more comprehensive pest treatments, especially in chow halls and other areas where food is prepared," Fahy said Monday.
The cockroach discovery comes after a spate of Marine barracks issues has garnered attention over the last few months and as top Corps leaders work to resolve housing issues by 2030, including lobbying Congress for more money to tackle outdated and substandard living conditions for Marines.
In the last two months, Military.com has reported on moldy showers at Camp Lejeune, as well as a Marine facility in California that had dead vermin, flooded washers and apparent mold. Marine Corps Times reported Friday that some troops at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, a West Coast installation, lacked consistent hot water in their barracks for months.
At Camp Lejeune, a service member described several instances of cockroaches in living quarters across multiple barracks there. They also said they were cognizant of the fact that food attracts bugs and would take garbage out to a nearby dumpster in an attempt to keep the cockroaches at bay.
"It was very early in the morning," they said of one encounter. "The alarm didn't wake me up. I didn't wake me up. There was a cockroach that crawled up my back and onto my shoulder that woke me up."
Humidity -- especially in the Southeast -- presents a problem for the decades-old barracks around the Corps. The service member described some living spaces at Camp Lejeune as "typically uncomfortably warm." Some Marine Corps installations across the force have had difficulty maintaining livable temperatures in facilities, which can lead to increased instances of mold and pests.
Cockroaches, which are attracted to warm, food-rich environments, can pose health issues if not exterminated, according to the American Lung Association. According to the association, allergens can be found in cockroach saliva, body parts and feces that can be kicked up while cleaning and exacerbate lung issues like asthma.
"It's practically a perfect breeding ground for [them]," the service member said.
Fahy, the spokesperson, agreed that cockroach and mold problems are common in eastern North Carolina, where the base is located.
"Most cockroach problems can be prevented by putting exposed food in containers, regular cleaning, and using sprays and traps in areas where they're known to exist," Fahy said. "Major infestations are typically dealt with using contracted exterminators."
The affected barracks belongs to the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, a unit that falls under II Marine Expeditionary Forces, or II MEF.
Military.com reached out to II MEF Friday morning with a series of questions, but did not hear back. Instead, the publication was contacted by Camp Lejeune's installation public affairs, several echelons above the affected unit, which said that Marines and sailors are responsible for cleaning mold and cockroaches until it "exceeds their ability to handle it," according to Fahy.
"If a mold or infestation problem exceeds their ability to handle it, they are directed to contact their facilities manager, which is typically a unit-designated NCO assigned to handle maintenance issues in that building," Fahy said. Those requests then go to the unit's logistics leadership "who will inspect the problem area and determine whether it is an issue that can be mitigated at the unit level or requires a formal work request to the installation."
Meanwhile, top Marine Corps officials have rolled out Barracks 2030, an effort to knock down and refurbish living facilities in the service. As of March, there were 17,000 Marines who lived in substandard housing, according to a Government Accountability Report released last year.
One effort under the program is to phase out barracks managers like the one Fahy referenced in favor of contracted civilian managers -- something that current and former service members have told Military.com they believe is a good idea.
"I don't want to put a corporal or a sergeant who's not a barracks manager in charge of that barracks," Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith told reporters in October. "That's how you fix the public works -- with a professional to a professional."
Amid the images and reports of squalid facilities, Corps officials have testified in front of Congress about quality-of-life issues; shown pristine, new barracks on social media; and embarked on a robust information campaign to describe what improvements the service is working on and will work on in the future to handle housing problems.
Service leaders, like Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlos Ruiz, the top enlisted leader, have conceded that some troops coming into or leaving the service now might not see new barracks. Smith said it could take a decade to fix the problem.
"I clearly see things are moving in the right direction due to this taking wind," a service member told Military.com of the cockroach issue. But "new barracks won't be until at least 2030."