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Marines relocate to newly renovated barracks

Fort Meade's Defense Information School Marine detachment has a new home on the installation as the roughly 100-person unit moved from an aging barracks to a newly renovated facility.

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10/23/08
By Alan J. McCombs
Staff Writer

The students made the move Sept. 22 from their former facility in Bldg. 8606 on 6th Armored Cavalry Road to their nearby newly renovated barracks in Bldg. 8607.

The move took them out of a building that both service members and garrison employees described as subpar.

"The conditions were less than ideal," said Marine Master Sgt. Robert Blankenship, senior enlisted advisor to the detachment. "Much of the furniture was broken over there. It wasn't broken from abuse, but just from use."

Building 8607 had been closed for several months while the Directorate of Public Works combated mold and other issues during renovation, said Steve Jackson, the agency's chief of barracks operations. More than $1 million worth of repairs and upgrades were completed, ranging from new paint to new heating and air conditioning systems.

"It's brighter; it's more habitable," Jackson said. "It's a hundred percent better."

The new facility should also allow Blankenship to better enforce accountability in how his Marines maintain their rooms, he said.

"Between the walls [and] the furniture, it was hard to tell what had always been broken and what was freshly broken," Blankenship said.

The Marine barracks, along with other designated barracks buildings, will receive about $300,000 worth of new furniture before the end of the month, Jackson said.

The facility was originally planned to be the home of Air Force students attending the Defense Information School. Those Airmen are now housed in the Freedom Center Complex. However, once renovations on buildings 8478 and 8479 on 6th Armored Cavalry Road are complete, the Marine students, along with Sailors bunking in Bldg. 8605, will relocate there and the Airmen will move from the Freedom Center into buildings 8606 and 8607. The timeframe for the Airmen's move is unknown due to the fact that renovating and rebuilding the two 1950s-era barracks has not begun.

These renovations are part of Meade's larger effort to improve its barracks.

This year, the Department of Defense allocated $52 million to the installation's Training Barracks Upgrade Program, with $26 million budgeted for the current fiscal year and two $13 million installments for the next two years.

The overhaul involves DPW juggling the housing assignments for service members as renovations work their way through the barracks.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the $21.6 million project to renovate Bldgs. 8478 and 8479 on Sept. 29 to HSU Development, which is based in Rockville. The finished buildings should feature electrical upgrades, new fire suppression and alarm systems, mold-, asbestos- and lead-abatement as well as antiterrorism and force protection measures.

Initial plans should allow for work to start on the barracks in early 2009 and finish by spring 2010, according to a release from the Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District.

For the near term, the Marines will most likely be based in Bldg. 8607 for about two years, Jackson said. It's a change that will be fine with service members, Blankenship said.

"I'm happy for the Marines," he said. "[We're] getting our stuff on the walls and figuring where things sit the best."

This story is part of a continuing series examining construction on Fort Meade and in the surrounding area.

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