Army Explores Food, Barracks Improvements for Soldiers

Army Explores Food, Barracks Improvements for Soldiers

Speakers on stage.
Photo by: AUSA/Jared Lieberher

Better food options and barracks with internet connectivity are among the priorities for Army leaders seeking to improve and maintain quality of life for soldiers.

At a Warriors Corner discussion during the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama, Sgt. Maj. Michael Perry outlined some of the initiatives under consideration to improve food options for enlisted soldiers, as well as some of the challenges with giving soldiers what they want.

“Every installation is different, and we cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Perry, the senior enlisted adviser to the Army deputy chief of staff for installations, G-9, who explained that his office and Army Materiel Command are considering a variety of solutions. “Soldiers want choices.”

Solutions being considered include food trucks, kiosks, commissary shopping privileges, better dining facility atmospherics and even kitchens and community cooking options in barracks that create “collision points” where soldiers can be together, Perry said.

At Fort Story, Virginia, “we added kitchens where soldiers can come down and cook and prepare their meals,” said Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Windham, senior enlisted adviser to the Army Materiel Command deputy chief of staff for facilities, logistics and environment, G-4.

“What we’re looking at in the future with barracks is to have a kiosk inside of the barracks, where a soldier can come down and get food, because we’re trying to cause those collision points,” Windham said, explaining that it’s about getting soldiers out of their rooms so “they can talk to other soldiers.”

At Fort Cavazos, Texas, formerly known as Fort Hood, a mass transit pilot is underway that is “basically a shuttle service,” Perry said. Soldiers request rides with an Uber-like app to get to the dining facilities and other outlets.

“One of the other challenges that we have in some installations is a lot of our soldiers don’t drive, so when you have a barracks or a motor pool or a working area that is a significant distance from wherever that dining facility is” it’s difficult to move to where food is, he said.

In addition to food choices, the Army is thinking about a standardized template for barracks rooms and providing free Wi-Fi.

“I am very much concerned, like with all of us, if we don’t have quality barracks and we don’t have quality work spaces, our soldiers are not going to feel good about wearing our uniform, and we want them to feel good about joining the Army,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, deputy Army chief of staff for installations, G-9. “We want them to feel good about where they work and where they live.”

New barracks construction will replace the worst facilities, but the work will take time. “It’s just a fact of life,” Vereen said. He added that he’s talking with the Army’s sister services to learn how they’ve been able to install free Wi-Fi in the barracks and plans for that are in the works.

“If we don’t take care of our families and our soldiers and have quality infrastructure, then we won’t be able to man the equipment that we’re trying to acquire or trying to build,” Vereen said. “At the end of the day, it’s really about our soldiers and families in order to still have the Army that made us strong.”