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    Army G-9 visits JBLM 

    Army G-9 visits JBLM

    Photo By Pamela Sleezer | From left, Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, deputy chief of staff, Army G-9, met with Joint Base...... read more read more

    TACOMA, WA, UNITED STATES

    04.06.2023

    Story by Pamela Sleezer 

    Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs Office     

    JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, deputy chief of staff, Army G-9, paid a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord April 3-4 to learn about quality-of-life topics that affect JBLM service members.

    Over the course of two days, Vereen toured the base alongside Col. Phil Lamb, JBLM commander, to view housing and barracks in-person and meet with officials to discuss ongoing challenges at the base’s child care development centers.

    As the G-9, Vereen serves as the primary adviser to Army senior leadership on how best to lead integration across the Army to modernize installations and improve quality of life for service members.

    Vereen’s first stop was at Clarkmoor CDC, where he joined Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, I Corps commander, in visiting with preschool students in the Strong Beginnings classroom taught by Gina Tucker, who demonstrated class activities and invited the generals to assist them with painting a shirt to commemorate the Month of the Military Child.

    Following the classroom experience, Vereen participated in a sit-down discussion with Child and Youth Services officials who detailed the struggles experienced behind-the-scenes to keep child care centers operating.

    According to Candace Iavarone, child administrator for JBLM’s Youth and School Services, the child care development centers are experiencing a 60 percent employee turnover rate. That figure directly affects military readiness, officials said, as it creates a lengthy waitlist for child care and, in some cases, prevents service members from being able to report for duty because they do not have a place to send their child while they work.

    Venicia Morse, JBLM’s MWR director, said 75 percent of children currently enrolled in JBLM CDCs belong to single service members or dual military households. Morse said that leaves very few spots available for households that include one service member and a working civilian spouse.

    There have been many concessions made in the hopes of increasing staff numbers at CDCs, but Iavarone pointed to several stress factors that continue to drive away employees. The primary source of stress, she said, can be attributed to the administrative duties that accompany five major command-level inspections performed every year at each center.

    Morse described it as “inspection fatigue.”

    “The Army has really become the gold standard of child care, which is a great thing,” Morse said, “but the administrative requirements of that are very difficult.”

    In addition, though JBLM ranks third highest in population of Exceptional Family Member Program families across all Army installations, the base only has one behavioral specialist consultant available for eight child care centers. Citing that data, Iavarone requested Vereen hear their plea for more behavioral specialists and approval to hire more support personnel inside classrooms to allow them to accept more children who require specialized care.

    Vereen acknowledged the information presented to him would be taken back to Washington, D.C., for further discussion to chart the way to a resolution.

    “It’s important to see what is occurring here,” Vereen said. “Sometimes we are so far removed, and you know it’s not because we want to be; everyone has their own levels of work and we’re just trying to understand so we can make well informed decisions. I think this visit provided it, and now we just have to try to determine how to strategically map the way ahead while being as transparent as possible.”

    Another major topic for quality of life at JBLM lies with its housing, for both married and single service members. For this, Vereen dedicated much of his time touring, on foot, a few JBLM housing areas and barracks rooms to gain insight into life here.

    According to Lamb, as many as 200-250 families unfortunately can spend from three to 12 months in hotels, or other accommodations, with their families and pets while waiting for a home on base to become available.

    To help families find affordable housing, JBLM leaders have utilized partnerships with off-base property management companies to offer military families leases to off-base homes and apartments while staying at the BAH rate. However, Lamb told Vereen that recent housing prices off-base have worked against the base, and it is becoming harder to get companies to form partnerships.

    “They’re jumping ship because they don’t need us,” Lamb said. “With the cost of living being what it is and the growth of the population around us … they don’t need to limit themselves to us because they can make that from other nonmilitary folks.”

    It was recently announced that 212 new homes will be constructed on JBLM in 2027 for more than $130 million. In the meantime, Liberty Military Housing officials have begun renovating older homes to improve them.

    Referred to as legacy homes, the homes are older housing units that fell under LMH’s control when they took over privatized housing operations which have been plagued with electrical and plumbing problems. In the Davis Hill and New Hillside communities, 952 units are going through a $107.7 million renovation project.

    Mark Holt, JBLM’s Directorate of Public Works deputy director, said renovating the homes created a far better approach economically.

    “I’m not a big fan of demolishing units that could be renovated,” Holt said.

    Across the base, the same consideration is being given to older barracks structures. The 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division’s barracks building is slated for renovation in 2030, though Vereen agreed that timeline is painfully far away.

    Built in 1953, the building, like the legacy homes, does not offer air conditioning. Service members often purchase their own window air conditioning units, but Lamb pointed out that puts a strain on the aged electrical system when multiple units are running at once. Other issues Vereen observed included plumbing issues in the restrooms and an outdated laundry area with limited space that forces service members to wash smaller loads more often.

    Vereen engaged with some of the service members housed in the barracks who had differing opinions on whether the building should be salvaged or demolished, but Vereen acknowledged that regardless of outcome, the process to reach a solution would be slow. He wants to collectively see how the Army can create more momentum using creative ways to do so.

    “We will continue to strive to ensure our facilities provide the best environment for Soldiers and families where they live and work,” Vereen said. “It’s one of the hardest things to understand – why things take so long. The input is always appreciated.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.06.2023
    Date Posted: 04.06.2023 16:01
    Story ID: 442189
    Location: TACOMA, WA, US

    Web Views: 885
    Downloads: 0

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