Marine Corps Orders Servicewide Barracks Inspection Amid Improvement Efforts, Reports of Squalid Conditions

new furniture at the barracks on Camp Elmore, Norfolk, Virginia
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kenneth Rodriguez-Colon, the barracks manager with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, Headquarters and Service Battalion, inspects the new furniture at the barracks on Camp Elmore, Norfolk, Virginia, Nov. 3, 2020. (Jack Chen/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps has ordered a forcewide, wall-to-wall inspection of every Marine barracks around the world, according to a service press release Wednesday. The order for installation leadership to inspect Marines' living facilities went into effect late last week and will be completed by March 15.

The purpose of the inspection is threefold, according to a spokesperson for the Marine Corps. It is meant to ensure health and safety for Marines in their living spaces; understand the condition of barracks facilities across the force; and "set conditions" for the service's newly announced barracks revitalization plan, Barracks 2030.

The forcewide inspection comes amid a slew of reports and images that show dirty and unlivable conditions for service members across the military, including a scathing watchdog report from last year that illuminated squalid housing and facilities around the Defense Department. reported Monday on a facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that had a cockroach infestation, which caused some Marines to be moved out of their room.

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"Although the budget is tight, our leadership -- your leadership -- is paramount. And its impact far exceeds any amount of money we can put in a budget," Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Chris Mahoney said in a video posted Wednesday.

"Commanders and senior enlisted leaders, if your barracks have issues, if there are problems, get out there and own it," he added. "Our Marines deserve our best."

As other reports and images of poor conditions have circulated in the media over the last few months, top service leaders have worked to address those conditions, including lobbying Congress for more money and restructuring how barracks are managed.

Part of that effort is getting a definitive sense of the state of the barracks, which -- along with rectifying issues that require immediate fixes -- the Marine Corps hopes to do with this inspection.

"This effort allows us to get a one-time complete assessment of the inventory, registered in the Enterprise Military Housing system as a baseline for analysis," Maj. Gen. David Maxwell, the head of Marine Corps Installations Command, or MCICOM, said in the press release. "The benefit as we transition to professional management will be that we have a point of reference for the condition of each barracks," he said. "This will enable our senior leaders to understand the totality of issues regarding their facility and get to quickly solving their problems."

The Marine Corps is looking to put more civilians in charge of the barracks, ones who may be there longer and with more facility management experience than the junior enlisted and noncommissioned officers who currently manage their unit’s barracks. Some current and former service members have told they believe this to be a positive step in mitigating barracks issues.

For junior Marines who live in these facilities, the inspection might look like any other routine inspection from leadership, Maj. John Parry, a spokesperson for MCICOM, told on Tuesday. The difference is that it will not be conducted by the Marine's own chain of command.

MCICOM has directed all installation commanders -- both stateside and abroad -- to assign an active-duty gunnery sergeant or above, or an unaccompanied housing civilian equivalent outside of the chain of command, to conduct the inspection, the press release said.

The purpose of having a senior noncommissioned officer or civilian who is not affiliated with the unit is to eliminate bias, Parry said.

"It's not that folks aren't honest, but you want an unbiased assessment," he said. "Within your chain of command, things might smell like roses, but you want somebody taking the inspection checklist and coming in and taking a hard look at it."

Leaders charged with conducting the inspection will be required to use previously published Marine Corps and Pentagon policies that outline the expectations for unaccompanied housing -- both for leadership and its inhabitants.

For example, Marine Corps policy states that service members can refuse uninhabitable quarters without "fear of reprisal, retaliation or harassment." The same policy states that the Marine must keep their room clean and functional. Pentagon policy says that the number of junior enlisted assigned to a room cannot exceed two people if facilities want to maintain a "minimum adequacy standard."

Barracks 2030 is the Marine Corps' answer to decades-old and unkempt barracks across the force. It is meant to bring sizable changes to Marines' living conditions within the next decade, to include getting rid of enlisted barracks managers in favor of civilian employees. One effort includes putting staff NCOs in barracks as "resident advisers," similar to how college dorms work.

Since Barracks 2030's rollout beginning last year, senior leaders have testified in front of Congress about quality of life, now a top issue for the Corps. For now, the inspection is meant to identify conditions in the barracks, some that have made headlines, including vermin, pests, inoperable appliances and mold.

"For Marines who are doing the right thing every day and they're keeping up their rooms -- no impact, right?" Parry told about the inspection. "If there is something of concern for life, health and safety within those rooms, that's going to be addressed immediately."

Related: Some Marines Evacuated over Cockroach Infestation at Camp Lejeune Barracks Facility

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