Here’s how the Marine Corps’ ‘wall-to-wall’ barracks inspections went

by Vern Evans

The Marine Corps has wrapped up its “wall-to-wall” inspections of its more than 60,000 barracks rooms.

Detailed results from the inspections aren’t yet available, according to Marine Corps Installations Command spokesman Maj. John Parry, who also provided the number of rooms involved in the inspection. The Corps is still analyzing the data from the inspections, and will have more information to share after senior leaders get briefed, Parry said Wednesday.

But interviews with three Marines in the barracks — who requested anonymity to let them speak freely without fear of getting in trouble — and information from the service shed light on how the inspections went and what has resulted from them so far.

The initial results of the inspection “have been consistent with the sample of barracks taken” for a Government Accountability Office report published in September 2023, Parry said.

That report estimated that approximately 17,000 Marines as of March 2023 lived in barracks that fell short of the military’s own standards regarding the privacy of the rooms and how they are configured.

Approximately 87,000 Marines live in the barracks, according to a February Marine Corps Gazette article co-authored by the head of Installations Command.

The Government Accountability Office, assessing conditions militarywide, also found mold, bad plumbing and poor temperature control across the armed forces’ barracks. Media reports in recent months have turned up similar issues, including mold, vermin, cold showers and filth, at particular Marine installations.

A Marine corporal living in a barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, told Marine Corps Times that Marines in that barracks have been seeing faster responses to their maintenance requests after the inspection.

With the inspections, it seems like the Corps is taking the barracks problems seriously, the Marine said.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” the Marine said.

How the inspections worked

The Marine Corps on Feb. 7 ordered the “wall-to-wall” inspections to address health and safety issues in the barracks and to take stock of all barracks-related issues as the service prepares to spend heavily on renovations. The inspections had to be completed by March 15.

The inspections were an early step in the Corps’ Barracks 2030 initiative, aimed at improving substandard living facilities.

The service will consolidate Marines in the best barracks and demolish the worst ones, according to congressional testimony Wednesday by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlos Ruiz. In the near term, it will install new air conditioners in barracks located in hot climates, and replace broken locks and old furniture.

The Corps plans to put civilians in charge of managing the barracks, rather than leaving that responsibility to Marines.

The Marine Corps also intends to spend much more money on restoring barracks. It is seeking $274 million for that purpose in the 2025 fiscal year, an increase of $65 million from the previous year’s budget, and has told Congress it wants an additional $230 million if possible.

The Corps has estimated it needs closer to $1.5 billion a year on barracks restoration to get the buildings to “good/fair” condition, Marine Corps Times previously reported.

The Marine Corps will further increase spending on the barracks in the 2026 fiscal year, “when future programmed quality of life improvements will be based on the results of the MCICOM wall-to-wall inspection,” Parry said.

As a first step, though, the Marine Corps has set out to understand exactly what condition its barracks were in.

Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney said in a video message announcing the inspections, “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.”

The inspectors had to be from outside the chain of command and be either civilians or leaders of the rank of gunnery sergeant or higher.

As they went through each barracks room, they had in hand a checklist, which Parry provided to Marine Corps Times.

The checklist contains dozens of questions pertaining to:

  • General safety (e.g. “Are all door locks fully operational?”).
  • Mold and moisture control (e.g. “Is the unit free of visible mold?”).
  • Pest management (e.g. “Does the unit appear to be free of pests?”).
  • Water (e.g. “Is the unit tap water free of any visual discoloration?”).
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (e.g. “Does unit have HVAC temperature control?”).
  • Carbon monoxide and fire safety (e.g. “Are the unit fire sprinkler heads free of paint or covering?”).

If an answer to the questions was “No,” inspectors had to write down details. Inspectors also had to record the room’s temperature and humidity measures, and to rate the condition of appliances.

Finally, they had to recommend follow-up actions — such as maintenance or a reinspection — and give the room a grade of pass, pass with some conditions or fail.

Marines living in rooms with broken locks and windows, faulty fire-safety appliances, or unhealthy water had to be relocated temporarily if those problems couldn’t be fixed within a few days, according to a Marine Corps Installation Command document provided by Parry.

Marines weigh in

Two Marine corporals, the one in North Carolina and another in Japan, told Marine Corps Times that their leaders did not tell them to do additional cleaning or painting in the leadup to the inspection.

The corporal in Japan, at the Camp Hansen, Okinawa-based 3rd Intelligence Battalion, said the unit’s barracks are generally good, with some mold because of the humid climate. The inspections showed them off in their true state, according to the Marine.

In that battalion, the Marine said, leaders had been conducting monthly inspections to identify maintenance issues even before the service-wide inspections were announced.

“I think having it at Marine Corps-wide level is very beneficial,” the Marine said.

One Marine based in Quantico, Virginia, said barracks leaders did tell Marines to clean their rooms better in the leadup to the inspection and to get rid of their non-Corps-authorized furniture. The banning of personal furniture irked that Marine.

“That’s the closest thing some of us have to a home,” the Marine said of the barracks. “You just told everyone, … ‘You come home and sit down and relax, you get an office chair. That’s what you deserve. That’s what you rate.’”

In the view of this Marine in Virginia, it is a great thing that top Marine leaders are paying attention to the state of the barracks. But the Marine said it is incumbent on staff noncommissioned officers to take the initiative seriously rather than brushing off barracks concerns with a, “Back in my day.”

Before the inspection, the Marine corporal in North Carolina said, it would take months to get barracks managers to fix broken fridges and microwaves and dead lightbulbs. Sometimes the issues simply wouldn’t get fixed, the Marine said. But after the inspection, those issues got fixed within days.

Even so, the Marine said, thornier issues persist — like faulty ventilation systems and cockroaches.

The poor condition of the barracks puts a damper on morale, that corporal said. But young, unmarried enlisted Marines don’t have salaries high enough to allow them to move out of the barracks, and they generally don’t receive extra money for off-base housing.

“We don’t really have a whole bunch of other options,” the Marine said.

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.

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