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Posted 11/24/2014

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By Al Barrus
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District

A major part of keeping troops ready for long combat missions is to keep them comfortable while training at their home post.

The fateful day when U.S. Army enlistees initially sign on the dotted line, volunteering everything, up to and including their own life, they have many lifestyle changes to expect. State-side civilian life, compared to what they’ll endure in basic combat training and later in the field, is very cozy. An enlisted soldier can anticipate spending more than a couple nights sleeping on the dirt, in a muddy foxhole, or even up against a tree if only to catch a few winks between guard duty shifts.

And then there’s the food: cadences sung marching to the chow hall leaves troops with low expectations: “They say that in the Army the food is mighty fine; a roll fell off the table and killed a friend of mine!” Field chow that’s formulated for shelf life and mission expedience can never compare to a home-cooked meal, tailored specially for a dinner guest.

“It’s been a tough 10-13 years. Our soldiers have been at war this whole time” said Vince Turner, Chief of Military Construction for the Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “You have to realize that many of these troops at Fort Carson have been deployed four, five, maybe six times.”

Deployments have increased in recent history. But, to counter the discomfort of time away from home for extended periods, barracks have changed drastically to help counter deployment fatigue. Nowadays, junior enlisted troops can look forward to higher quality state-side billeting conditions. Gone are the days of soldiers sharing a dorm room with bunk beds and foot lockers, one communal bathroom per floor, followed by a lengthy commute to the dining facility.

This barracks construction, slated for completion January 2015, will house 1,200 male and female soldiers from the rank of private to sergeant. This housing construction is just one element of a larger Omaha District USACE project at Fort Carson for the recently reformed 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, which also includes dining facilities and recreational areas all built near the CABs workplace at Butts Army Airfield.

“They really are beautiful barracks,” said Dean Quaranta, Fort Carson’s Chief of Housing. “These new barracks are all for single soldiers, both male and female. One big improvement is that they are in close proximity to their workplace.”

Decreased distance between work and home has a huge impact on time, resources and quality of life. The planning and design for the new facilities has been years in the making.

“A lot of thought and planning has gone into these,” Quaranta continued. “A lot of time is saved in commuting. Where they are staying now is on the main part of the post: several miles from the airfield. These new facilities put them right next to the airfield.”

The physical location of the new facilities was just one part of the vast planning and engineering process. These barracks have also been calculated to net zero electricity use through energy efficient design and on-site power generation. This was achieved through a competitive contract bidding process, which was awarded at $94.9 million.

“The contractors who presented the most energy-efficient, sustainable barracks facilities achieved better ratings in the overall proposal evaluation. Mortenson's solution provided well insulated barracks along with energy efficient building systems. To help achieve net zero energy goals, the contractor also proposed a solar array.” Turner said of Mortenson, a Denver-based construction contractor known for their applications of energy efficient designs.

“The ability that our soldiers will have with these new kitchenettes inside the barracks will allow them to cook their own foods in their own homes,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Antoine Duchatelier, CSM of the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th CAB. “It will give them a lot more autonomy so that they won’t have to go out to the dining facility if they don’t want to.”

“Any time there’s a chance for a soldier to make their life a bit more comfortable is a big boost to morale. The way the barracks and other facilities have been engineered is a great benefit to this organization,” Duchatelier continued.

The 4th Infantry Division and the 4th CAB have gone through a lot of changes and reorganization in the past, according to Duchatelier who joined the CAB staff in January 2013. The unit, along with the rest of the 4th Infantry Division, was relocated to Fort Carson, Colo., from Fort Hood, Texas. At its new home, the 4th CAB is rebuilding with new personnel, equipment and facilities, and will soon be poised to enter regular deployment rotation.

“The 4th CAB will be on a regular deployment cycle,” Duchatelier added. “We will enter the cycle just as any other unit. We’re looking at spending nine months to a year in theatre, and then 18 months back home. We are expecting to enter the Army Force Generation Cycle.”

This deployment calendar is in great contrast to the pre-9/11 Army, which was designed to deploy troops for small and/or short duration missions. The ARFORGEN process provides a sustainable method for rotating trained and ready forces to combatant commanders.

“I think from the design standpoint you can really see that the Corps of Engineers actually took input from the soldiers and put it into practical application,” Duchatelier said in closing. “That’s something that is going to be a great benefit to the Army as a whole. When a soldier is living in a place where they feel secure and comfortable, they are guaranteed to do great things.”

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