Fort Riley, Kansas

 

News

Staff keep unaccompanied Soldiers in clean, safe housing

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | December 08, 2017

     Editor’s Note: This story is part two of a three-part series on the Directorate of Public Works – Housing Division.

 

     When a Soldier arrives to Fort Riley without a family in tow, they aren’t left out in the cold to find a home of their own, thanks to the efforts of the Unaccompanied Personnel Housing Branch of the Directorate of Public Works – Housing Division.

 

BARRACKS

     For most Soldiers who arrive to Fort Riley unaccompanied, UPH works with their brigade to place them into a barracks room. Residence in a barracks room is required for all Soldiers from enlisted pay grade 1 to 5. This task is simplified by keeping representatives from each brigade and UPH staff in one facility on Custer Hill.

     "Our mission is to deliver a consistent quality of service to single Soldiers,” said Pamela Morlewski, chief of DPW - UPH Branch. “To make sure they have a safe, serviceable and clean room. Right now, we are all consolidated in one building on the hill. Each brigade has an office here.”

     When preparing a room or after a Soldier has been placed in one, UPH staff work with representatives from the First Sergeant’s Barracks Program to maintain common living areas and repair or replace furniture and appliances in rooms.

     “My position is to replace all the damaged furniture in the barracks, dealing with supply sergeants as far as the upkeep of the common areas for the Soldiers,” said Hector Figueroa, furnishing management for DPW – UPH Branch. “The common areas have a pool table, foosball table, full stove and ice maker.”

     The overall upkeep, assignment and termination of rooms, as well as move-out inspections, are handled by the brigades. When something breaks or needs to be replaced — like a refrigerator or chair — a work order is placed and Figueroa steps in to repair or deliver items, he said.

     However, this relationship between the First Sergeant’s Barracks Program and UPH started changing as of Dec. 1. Some of responsibility in managing the barracks is being returned to the brigades one at a time. The barracks will be signed for and have operations conducted at battalion levels with responsibility for day-to-day management at company levels.

     This transition leaves UPH staff busy training and preparing Soldiers in all the various duties UPH personnel had been handling for them, said Morlewski.

      “Our mission now is to make sure every Soldier taking care of the barracks is trained on how to do assignments, termination, service orders, R and U (repair and upkeep) and run reports,” she said. “We will provide on-the-job training and mentorship to those new to managing UH (Unaccompanied Housing). Right now, Hector has a crew from the brigades assisting with deliveries. Once the barracks are returned, the Soldiers will have to bring the furniture to Hector for one for one replacement.”

      In their current dynamic, Figueroa delivers new furniture and appliances when old ones break, but with the transfer back into brigade hands, the Soldiers will need to visit him with a signature card and the broken items to exchange them for new ones that they must transport, he said.

      “The only difference is I will not make the deliveries myself,” Figueroa said. “They will do like a turn-in to me. Their supply will come in with all their broken and damages for the building and they will have to be on a signature card just like they would if they turned in a piece of equipment. It’d be a signature card authorized by the commander for them to come out and switch out the furniture because it boils down to all that furniture belongs to the commander, he signed for it.”

      This will simplify some things for Figueroa, but he said his greatest challenge in maintaining the barracks remains intact. Every year, he must order the entire upcoming year’s worth of replacement furniture and appliances based off of estimates of what he will need. This means he has to predict the number of items, such as mattresses, that will need to be replaced and order them before knowing how many will really be needed. This could leave them with too many or not enough of a replacement item as the year moves forward.

 

ARNOLD HALL

       For unaccompanied senior enlisted Soldiers and officers, they don’t need to go on a home search off post. Arnold Hall at 27 Sheridan Ave. is an apartment complex managed by UPH to match their housing needs.

     The apartments at Arnold Hall are divided into four wings — all of which are managed and maintained by Figueroa. Presently, they are undergoing renovations one wing at a time to update the floor, wallpaper and other cosmetics.

      “Any one that is new to the post can take advantage of living here on the main post without having to bring their families into a hardship or in a case, if any hardship does occur, they always have a place to stay,” he said.

      Arnold Hall offers flexibility to the unaccompanied Soldiers residing there. They aren’t locked into a year or greater contract and rent is $700 a month, about half of what the basic housing allowance is for most ranks that reside there. Figueroa said providing these apartments to unaccompanied Soldiers at Fort Riley — whether they’re here a few weeks or two years — is a way of showing them the installation cares about their well-being.

     “It shows that the post cares and that we’re not just going to say, ‘hey, welcome to Fort Riley, now you’re looking for an apartment by yourself,’” he said. “They go through all that in housing and say, ‘yeah, but I really don’t want to have a two-year contract’ and here they don’t have to have a contract. Here they just sign for their room.”

      Figueroa handles both the assignments and terminations for occupants of Arnold Hall. During move out inspections, he identifies issues with the tenants and gives them an opportunity to fix it prior to their move out so they do not have to pay for damages. He said by doing this, he’s never had to fail someone’s inspection.

     While UPH staff do not work weekends or nights, they do have a system in place to assist Soldiers moving into Arnold Hall during these times.

     “There were Soldiers from 1st (Armored) Brigade (Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division) coming back,” Figueroa said. “They were E-7s (enlisted paygrade 7) and they were about to ETS (expiration term of service), so they called Pam from Korea and asked Pam — They’re were looking to come back to Arnold Hall — and see if there were any way we could accommodate them and Pam said ‘sure.’”

      The Soldiers arrived to Arnold Hall with the combination number to their lock on their assigned storage rooms in their emails. They unlocked the storage rooms to find the key to their apartment waiting for them inside.

      “They could just come right in and go to sleep,” Figueroa said. “They didn’t have to wait on anybody.”

 

SATISFACTION

     Figueroa said his greatest accomplishment is keeping Soldiers satisfied with their living accommodations. He said each time he hears feedback from them, whether it’s a thank you for repairing a light or comments on the apartments, he’s happy.

      “I enjoy talking to the Soldiers, listening to them — being a retiree myself — and having them letting me know about what they like about the post, what they don’t like about the post and then I can just go ahead, from their point of view, improve on my end on what I can do better to serve them better —make it more fun for them to stay here and Fort Riley,” he said.