New funding approved for Air Force dorms where mold and bats were found

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Sig Christenson

San Antonio Express-News


Jan. 9—SAN ANTONIO — Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland will get $5.4 million in federal funding to upgrade dormitories on the sprawling training base that, in some cases over the years, were plagued by mold and bats.

Rep. Joaquin Castro said Congress the money is part of the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which included $58.6 million for a building to replace an ambulatory care dental center and $29 million for a child development care center at JBSA-Randolph.

Troops also got a 4.6 percent pay raise.

“This year’s NDAA includes a well-deserved military pay raise and new investments in on-base services for military families to improve their lives and strengthen troop retention,” Castro, D- San Antonio, said in a statement.

The largest expenditure is a facility to house the ambulatory care dental center. Castro didn’t say where that facility would be built, and a spokesman for Joint Base San Antonio, Rob Strain, didn’t immediately know.

Nothing was known about the $5.4 million pegged for work on recruit dorms at Lackland, but it isn’t enough for a new Airman Training Complex, a massive $900-plus million structure that is intended to replace the Vietnam-era Recruit Housing and Training facilities that dot the base — and are still in use.

Some of those buildings have caused problems for the 502nd Air Base Wing, the organization charged with maintaining structures and providing logistical support for San Antonio’s three major installations and the Camp Bullis training range, part of the joint base — the nation’s largest. The wing is also known as Joint Base San Antonio.

In 2019, complaints of black mold in dormitories at one installation prompted commanders to tear out carpet, replace furniture and sanitize rooms. An Air Force general described outcry over those conditions “valid concerns.”

Problems have cropped up in a variety of living areas on occasion.

Back in 2014, Lackland battled a colony of 500 to 600 bats that led to medical officials vaccinating more than 200 recruits after the creatures were seen in a dorm complex. The bats were in four living areas of a 45-year-old recruit residential complex that contained 20 dormitories and 900 trainees. In one incident, a bat flew into an airman’s stomach as she slept.

Another recruit captured a sleeping bat named Echo, which tested negative for rabies.

One important addition to the fiscal year 2023 NDAA is a provision in the law to prevent civilians treated at Brooke Army Medical Center from getting hit with surprise medical bills. BAMC has cared for civilians in its Level 1 trauma center for years, in part to prepare medical teams for life in the war zone. But Castro learned last year that those taken to BAMC for emergency medical care later were presented with costly bills.

BAMC, one of two Level 1 trauma centers in San Antonio, is required to treat civilians in order to maintain its accreditation for graduate medical education.

The provision was created after Castro filed an amendment to grant military medical facilities the flexibility to waive medical bills for civilians.


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