Soon, generals won’t be the only ones with star rankings.
A techy group of former soldiers fed up with the grotty conditions of military facilities have developed a Yelp-style app to rate them.
“Hots&Cots” allows service members to anonymously review the quality of barracks and dining services. Troops have already posted more than a dozen ratings — scathing, glowing, and mediocre — since the app’s launch on Wednesday.
Housing at Fort Stewart, Georgia? Two stars (broken air conditioning). The Smoke Bomb Hill barracks at Fort Liberty, North Carolina? Three stars (chronic mold and pest issues, but laundry machines are located on site).
An unclean cafeteria and uncooked chicken tenders earned a DFAC at Joint Base Lewis-McChord one star. Dinner service at Fort Bliss, meanwhile, received a perfect five.
“I think [the app] can help with soldiers knowing what they’re going into,” Rob Evans, Hots&Cots’ lead coder and a former Army reservist, told Army Times. “You can get a review on pretty much anything these days, but there’s nothing like that for housing or barracks, or dining facilities.”
The app’s development follows the release of a blistering government watchdog report documenting dirty and dangerous conditions in military barracks across the country. The report’s findings caught the attention of lawmakers, who grilled Defense Department higher-ups during public hearings and penned a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin demanding reforms.
Evans hopes the feedback collected on Hots&Cots will help catalyze change.
“I have two young boys that may one day want to enlist in the military,” he said. “I want them to go into a military that is going to take care of them, and I personally don’t feel like that is what is happening now to our young enlisted.”
The Hots&Cots interface resembles a slimmed-down version of TripAdvisor tailored to military installations and the more spartan concerns of their inhabitants. Through a preset questionnaire, service members can provide detailed assessments of their living quarters — for example, are there pests? Is the HVAC system functional? Do the doors lock? — and their dining halls — How far is the DFAC from the barracks? Does the DFAC have healthy options? Is the food edible?
Evans and his team are tweaking the app to make it more accessible and user-friendly. It’s not yet available on Android, and users can only upload one photo per review. Evans also wants users to be able to sort and save rankings.
“I have a few moments of like, is this just going to be a little speed bump in the big world of the military?” he reflected. “But I’m hoping that this will make an impact on the quality of life for soldiers.”
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.