Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Gabram, commander of Installation Management Command, visited Fort Belvoir to engage leaders and Garrison professionals about Army priorities and lessons learned operating in a COVID environment.
The Army’s number one priority is people, and IMCOM leads four of the five top initiatives designed to improve the Quality of Life for Soldiers and families. The initiatives IMCOM is leading as part of the larger, Army Materiel Command team are housing, spouse employment, child care and PCS moves.
Gabram’s favorite part of any installation visit is the opportunity to personally engage members of the IMCOM team and listen first-hand to their challenges, opportunities, and best practices. Twenty-plus IMCOM professionals gathered in Thurman Auditorium, and Gabram was able to do his second favorite activity while visiting, recognizing successful teammates for their efforts to improve the quality of life and readiness of our Soldiers, civilians and families.
He also visited the JoAnn Blanks Child Development Center, one of the largest in the country. After a heart-warming and informative session discussing pandemic operations, Gabram told the team “You are Army first responders. You, and professionals like you across the Army, kept CDC doors open and operations safe so other mission essential Soldiers and civilians could keep performing their critical missions. Army readiness begins with you.”
Housing and barracks
Gabram toured the ongoing renovations of Fort Belvoir’s enlisted barracks, where quarters are being re-designed to provide increased privacy. There are six barracks with more than 400 permanent party units, and rooms are being re-configured from a 1+1 setup into private suites with a bathroom, and two rooms share a common kitchenette and living area. The first four barracks should be completed this spring and summer, according to Bradford Britain, Fort Belvoir’s Directorate of Public Works director.
Gabram said he was pleased with the layout, separate climate controls and privacy the new rooms will offer. “Our single Soldiers deserve quality barracks just as much as married Soldiers deserve quality housing for them and their families. Making this happen is a top priority for IMCOM, AMC and the Army.”
Gabram also toured some of the privatized family housing on the post, acknowledging both progress made and work still to be done alongside leaders from private partners Clark and Michaels. Gabram summarized a common theme from their discussions, “Improving communications with our customers — our residents, is something all leaders should continually emphasize.”
Mayors: a big win
One communications strategy that is making a big difference is the implementation of the Mayors Program, with each village resident able to reach out to a mayor or deputy mayor about any issue, large or small. Col. Joshua SeGraves, Garrison commander, said he is getting positive feedback from residents.
“Mayors now have a quarterly walk-through of their village – it’s essentially 15 mini town halls,” SeGraves said. “Strategic communication is enhancing the partnership between us and the customers.”
Gabram said it was great to see the work in place to give residents a heightened sense of trust in their homes.
Belvoir Village, home to senior officers, is a 1930’s village with two-story Colonial Revival architecture, and they are protected by the State Historical Preservation Office. Gabram said repairs or renovations to historic homes take longer and cost more than the rest of the inventory. That is now changing.
“We have 30,000 historical homes in our inventory. We now have policies where we can renovate many of them faster and cheaper,” Gabram said.
Army’s inspection pilot project
Gabram also spent time discussing the Army pilot project, already underway, with RER Solutions contracted to inspect all 2,150 privatized homes on Fort Belvoir, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. The inspections will be conducted over the next seven months. He was briefed by Jason Kallivokas, executive vice president of RER about the inspection procedures.
“We systematically come through each room in the house, hit all the interior elements, and inspect the building systems to the extent that we can get into the attic and have a look around. It’s not an invasive inspection, so we’re not cutting into walls or damaging the unit in any way. Then we do an outside inspection,” Kallivokas said, explaining that the inspection conclusion is to provide the Army with the current condition of the home at that point in time. It also provides the Army with an estimate of time and cost to scale this service-wide.
“We are on track to continue (housing) improvements,” Gabram said, adding that technical action plans have been implemented and are on target.