Kunsan Air Base in South Korea has created a task force and plans to hire more engineers to quickly fix dorms that have been plagued with mold and inconsistent air conditioning for weeks this summer.
Capt. Kaylin Paige Hankerson, a spokesperson for Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing — often called the Wolf Pack, said in an emailed statement that the task force will physically inspect all parts of the base’s facilities following the reports of poor living conditions.
About a month ago, Kunsan airmen began posting dozens of pictures online showing moldy patches in hallways and images of thermostats reading anywhere from 87 to 90 degrees due to broken air conditioning. The images were shared on the popular Amn/NCO/SNCO Facebook page, where airmen often go to vent and swap insider information anonymously about their duty stations.
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“Recently, Wolf Pack leadership commissioned a Quality of Life Task Force charged with developing short- and long-term solutions for our facility problems,” Hankerson said in a statement. “The Task Force’s first step has been quantifying the scope of the problem, conducting a 100% eyes-on inspection of Kunsan facilities.”
Kunsan, which is home to roughly 2,800 personnel, has faced brutal seasonal climates due in part to high humidity and a close proximity to the Yellow Sea. Hankerson told Military.com last month that the base’s air conditioning units have been under significant stress as a result.
The problems with the dorms became so desperate that airmen in need of air conditioning began posting fliers advertising donations for a “Bake & Raffle” in which troops could donate money to receive a pastry and be entered into a drawing for a “BRAND NEW A/C UNIT,” according to a copy of the poster.
Following an initial review by the task force, it was clear there needed to be more people working on maintenance for the base.
“The findings have been used to drive some near-future change here at Kunsan such as: acquiring 15 civil engineering airmen to augment our 8th Civil Engineering Squadron, as they tackle work tasks and execute preventive maintenance, and clarifying the work-order process to ensure the appropriate entities are aware of the issues that exist,” Hankerson said in a statement.
Prior to announcing the task force, Hankerson told Military.com that the base had invested more than “$5.2 million into overhauling base HVAC systems” in 2022 alone. Those systems handle heating and ventilation, as well as cooling.
In response to the mold and heat issues, Kunsan has passed out dehumidifiers for every dorm and office space. However, unoccupied spaces such as hallways or stairwells “may not be equipped with dehumidifiers nor climate-controlled,” Hankerson added.
The Air Force’s top brass are aware of the issues at Kunsan.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown made a stop at Kunsan on Aug. 12 and visited with airmen and base leaders, according to a press release from the service. Maj. Nicole Ferrara, a spokeswoman for Brown, said he was made aware of the problems.
“Gen. Brown is aware; he discussed quality of life concerns with leaders and airmen during his recent visit to Kunsan Air Base,” Ferrara said in an emailed statement last month. “Air Force leaders are committed to providing healthy and safe living environments for airmen and all base residents.”
Reports of Kunsan service members’ complaints come as other military services such as the Army and Navy also struggle with barracks issues.
Last month, the Army announced that more than 1,000 soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would be evacuated after an inspection found 12 buildings were unlivable due to mold and air conditioning issues. Roughly 200 of those soldiers have been moved out, with plans for the buildings to be demolished by next year.
In May, junior sailors stationed at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, were left scrambling to find housing after the closure of two of the base’s barracks so the service could “conduct much needed repairs and renovations,” a base spokeswoman said at the time.
— Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
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