The Marine Corps has ordered inspections of each of its barracks in an effort to assess and fix the problems in the often-subpar living quarters.
By March 15, leaders from outside of the chain of command responsible for the Marines in those barracks must examine whether the facilities meet the service’s promise of “a safe, secure, clean, and consistent living standard,” according to a Wednesday news release from Marine Corps Installations Command.
The “wall-to-wall inspection” will give the service “a good baseline understanding of the condition of all our barracks so we can identify and allocate resources accordingly,” said Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney, who is also the acting commandant while Gen. Eric Smith recovers from an October 2023 cardiac arrest, in a video posted to social media Wednesday.
The inspectors must be civilian barracks leaders or hold at least the rank of E-7, which is a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, according to the news release.. Installation commanders will assign the inspectors.
“We’re going to take a look at every single barracks room, every squad bay, to ensure the health, well-being and safety of each and every one of you,” Mahoney said.
Problems with barracks
The service’s top leaders have publicly acknowledged what lance corporals and privates know too well: The barracks aren’t good enough.
The service’s barracks are more than three decades old on average, Smith said in October 2023. Some are moldy. Some are dilapidated. And in the age of TikTok and Reddit, images of these sorry conditions often spill out into the open.
In California, helicopter maintainers recently spent months showering in cold water, and Marines at the infantry school were living in vermin-infested squalor, according to photos taken in January. At the East Coast infantry school, one shower facility was so moldy that in December 2023 the Corps quarantined it off and sent in a health inspector.
On the same installation — Camp Lejeune, North Carolina — Marines recently had to be moved out of a room because of a cockroach problem that one termed an “invasion,” Military.com reported Monday. Nat Fahy, a spokesman for the installation, said in a statement to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday that contractors had completed a full treatment of the facility that day.
The barracks, where unmarried junior enlisted Marines typically live, are the target of the Corps’ Barracks 2030 plan, which seeks to overhaul the living quarters for unmarried junior enlisted Marines.
As part of that plan, the Marine Corps will install civilians to manage the barracks, rather than placing that responsibility on Marines, who will be free to return to their primary jobs, according to a document from Marine Corps Installations Command. Other short-term steps will include fixing broken locks, replacing outdated furniture and putting in place maintenance teams to respond to requests more quickly, according to congressional testimony by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlos Ruiz.
But long-term solutions will prove expensive. Mahoney, whose previous job was managing the Corps’ finances, acknowledged in the video Wednesday that the budget was tight.
The Marine Corps spends an average of $300 million a year on barracks, and it wants closer to $1.5 billion a year going forward, according to an internal memo on Barracks 2030 obtained by Marine Corps Times in January.
With the service-wide barracks occupancy rate now at a mere 60%, the Corps plans to consolidate Marines into the best barracks, Smith said in October 2023.
It also is weighing whether to privatize some of its barracks, Marine Corps Times reported in February 2023.
Smith said in October 2023 it would take a decade for the service to resolve the issues with its barracks, citing high costs and a limited number of construction companies. Yet he said he would do what he could during his four-year term.
“Taking care of Marines is a warfighting function,” Smith said in a statement included in a November 2023 Marine Corps news release. “Otherwise, they cannot focus on the mission at hand. Barracks, chow halls, and gyms are key to retaining Marines, and investments in quality-of-life initiatives are truly warfighting needs.”
Mahoney concluded the video Wednesday with an appeal to Marine leaders.
“Commanders and senior enlisted leaders: If your barracks have issues, if there are problems, get out there and own it,” the assistant commandant said. “Our Marines deserve our best.”
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.