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Corps empowers barracks managers to keep new living quarters nice - and orderly

Jun. 25, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By the end of this year, barracks dwellers in the U.S. and overseas can expect to see more emphasis on the whereabouts of room furniture, maintenance issues and the overall upkeep of living spaces.
By the end of this year, barracks dwellers in the U.S. and overseas can expect to see more emphasis on the whereabouts of room furniture, maintenance issues and the overall upkeep of living spaces. (Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps is working to protect its $2.5 billion investment in new residential facilities by reforming how it selects and trains barracks managers and redefining what’s expected of them.

Forthcoming revisions to the Marine Corps’ housing order will require managers to run a tight ship and have the time and experience to stay on top of their responsibilities, Marine officials say. By the end of July, installation barracks managers across the service will have completed a six-part course covering management basics, from checking in new Marines to conducting routine inspections and inventory control. So by the end of this year, barracks dwellers in the U.S. and overseas can expect to see more emphasis on the whereabouts of room furniture, maintenance issues and the upkeep of their living spaces.

The Corps’ older barracks, built in the 1950s and ’60s, are fairly spartan, with little to protect or to destroy. But some of the new barracks, such as the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters Package 5 that opened aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., in 2011, are luxurious by comparison, featuring rugs and wooden furniture in living quarters and overstuffed chairs and stone picnic tables in common areas. And some items are already going missing, said Mary Simmerman, director of the bachelor housing division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“I was in a brand new barracks a couple weeks ago doing a pre-inspection,” she said. “We had a chair missing and an insert to a desk is missing. [The Marines] looked at me like, ‘there’s supposed to be a chair in here?’ ”

The Marine Corps uses a computerized system to track maintenance issues and barracks property and deter negligence. But the problem, Simmerman said, is that too many barracks managers aren’t trained to use the system properly, and often aren’t invested enough in their roles to learn the basics of barracks management.

“There’s a high turnover of barracks managers,” she said, noting that often these jobs are filled by noncommissioned officers or staff NCOs awaiting separation from the service or otherwise nondeployable. “They’re usually in the billets for six months with no training.”

New tools for NCOs

That’s about to change. The updated housing order will create a specific job description for barracks managers. It will be similar to a B-billet, she said, bringing an end to haphazard management styles and minimizing turnover.

Under the new plan, enlisted barracks managers will be corporals and sergeants with a minimum of two years in the Corps. They’ll hold the billet for a minimum of one year and receive training twice an­nually.

With a dedicated role for barracks managers, Simmerman said, these Marines “have more of a sense of accomplishment in what they’re doing.” Greater continuity and dedication, she said, will be “very beneficial.”

Barracks managers will use computerized checklists to inventory room furnishings and accurately track occupancy, producing monthly reports that should help the Corps reach its “2+0” occupancy standard of two enlisted troops to each room and bathroom. Additionally, when used properly, the system can pinpoint Marines with a history of wrecking their rooms or damaging furniture, enabling managers to alert the command and put a stop to such problems.

At a few barracks aboard Camp Lejeune, officials also are testing a scanning system that will embed information directly into furniture via a bar code label, making it easier to track where barracks inventory has been and where it belongs.

The updated housing order is expected to be finalized in the coming months, Simmerman said. With its publication will come new installation-specific desk guides, which will be issued to each barracks manager so the information they need is always within reach.

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