Under the hand of Brig. Gen. Darren James, living conditions at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar — home of the airpower nerve center overseeing combat operations in the region — are finally starting to show visible improvement.
In a message posted to Facebook May 9th, James outlines progress being made across a range of initiatives, from improving contractor performance in the cleaning of latrines to making dehumidifiers more readily available for airmen to combat mold growth in their rooms. Most welcome is the news that “Cadillac” latrine facilities are finally being rebuilt and put back into service in serviceable shape. The state of those particular facilities has been a longstanding counterweight to morale in the Coalition Compound.
James also discusses the continuing intent to replace Al Udeid’s aging temporary facilities with refreshed living quarters that, while still short of a permanent solution, represent a major potential upgrade. This is especially true for transient crews who spend considerable time at the base but don’t stay long enough at a single stretch to rate a room in the permanent quarters on the modernized side of the post.
James’s message, which contains more photos:
One thing not addressed here that remains a burning question for airmen at Al Udeid the occupancy rates in the upgraded billets of the Blatchford-Preston Complex. Anecdotally, rooms there continue to sit empty, which is unacceptable — or at the very least begs for explanation.
But aside from this grumble, airmen at Al Udeid tell me there has indeed been a palpable shift in the level of concern for living conditions, and that things are visibly improving. This doesn’t mean Al Udeid will be a luxurious oasis anytime soon, and there’s basically zero chance it’ll be “fun” at any point … but these changes are not unimportant.
Whether this is all because of recent Congressional and/or media scrutiny or whether, as many have claimed, it’s just coincidental timing of already-unfolding efforts … is ultimately not that important. What matters is that something is being done, at long last, to take better care of people assigned to the base — whether they are there for a day or for a year. Even more important is that James and his chain of command are communicating openly about it, addressing complaints and questions, and keeping attention on the issue rather than running from it.
Mark me down as perhaps overly optimistic that maybe, because of a confluence of aligned circumstances, Al Udeid might finally start taking better care of itself … and the servicemembers who perform its vital mission.
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