Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another Slap In The Face For Our Troops

Just when we think that our troops returning from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan can't be treated any worse than they already have been, a story and a YouTube video hits the web today about a father who went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to greet his son, who was returning from his second tour of duty in a remote region in Afghanistan, only to be met with conditions we wouldn't force on death row inmates.

So remote was the area in which Sergent Jeff Frawley was serving that he and his fellow soldiers sometimes went eight weeks without being able to bathe or make a phone call. So remote, that the nearest U.S. base was a dangerous five hour drive away. Yet, for some of the soldiers stationed at this Forward Operating Base, this was not their second, but their third tour of duty. The third 15 month deployment into a fire zone and the new killing fields.

Never complaining, they did their duty, many having their vehicles destroyed by IED's. Many a purple heart was handed out to this particular group of soldiers, and according to Sgt. Frawley's father, Edward Frawley, that was as far as this nation's political leaders expressed their appreciation for the hardships endured and the service that was rendered by the Sergeant and his group of men.

Returning home to Fort Bragg, the soldiers were housed in the most decrepit, most deplorable conditions, that the Walter Reed debacle looks pale in comparison. Raw sewage backing up inches deep in bathrooms, paint peeling from walls and ceilings, rusted pipes and hand rails everywhere, broken toilet seats, the list goes on and on. Having become almost common place since the Bush Administration's massive cuts to the funds that go directly to helping our vets and for taking care of our on duty soldiers, one must wonder at how the company that was supposed to build the new barracks and renovate the old ones, got away with all of this.

Then we turn to the McCarty Corporation. In June,2006, this company was awarded first one contract worth 15 million dollars to build the new barracks, then one month later, secured another 16.5 million dollar contract to build or renovate even more at the Fort Bragg base. The McCarty Corporation is based where again? Ahhhh. They're based in Austin, Texas, you know who's old stomping grounds. Mike McCarty is a registered Republican, and donated to the Bush campaign. Plus, he also loves horses, being a member of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the proud owner of at least eight prized circuit winners. Wasn't there another Bush crony who loved horses?

We also have to look at the Weston Corporation. Although headquartered in Pennsylvania, it turns out they also have a major office in Austin. According to Weston's own web site, the company was awarded the lion's share of a 250 million dollar initiative by the U.S. Army to remodel older decrepit barracks on Fort Bragg. Here's a quote from their web site about the renovations: "WESTON met the challenges of a compressed schedule, completing all work on time and overseeing over 200,000 labor hours without a single lost-time accident."

Oh, really? According to the work orders and the claims made by Weston as to the actual work done, these barracks should have been clean and looking almost new. A sample of the claims of work completed by Weston on the very same barracks that Sergeant Frawley and his men had to endure should make all of us angry enough to heed the elder Mr. Frawley's plea for us to call someone. Claims such as:
Installation/refurbishment of mechanical systems, including pumps, motors, and heat exchangers in the mechanical rooms.
Removal and replacement of between 54 and 96 fan coil HVAC units per barrack.
Modifications to existing plumbing systems by replacement of between 12 and 96 flush valve toilets with bowl/tank types per barrack.
General carpentry, including removal and replacement of doors, windows, ceiling tile/grid, and floor tile, plus painting. For each barrack, between 5 and 10 doors were replaced, up to 160 windows were replaced or refurbished, up to 24,000 square feet of ceiling tile/grid was replaced, and approximately 2,000 square feel of floor tile was replaced.
Electrical upgrades, including replacement light switches, receptacles, and fan motors.
Removal/replacement of between 300 and 1,800 linear feet of piping insulation per barrack and various interior finishes.
Miscellaneous other interior construction.

And so when it comes to contractors working for our very much politicized military, we get the same type of contract work as they're getting in Iraq. None, or shoddy work done at best. They take the money, don't do the work, and when the fecal matter literally hits the fan, everyone points the finger at everyone else. It reminds one of the mafia no show jobs, where the company owned by a friend of a friend pays a mob guy to sit and do nothing all day, or not show up at all.

Make the calls that Mr. Frawley asks you to. Decency and respect for the men and women enduring hardship in our name demands it. Write to the media and ask them why they didn't bother to do one hours' worth of research to find out who the contractors were that were supposed to be doing the work, and why they didn't ask questions as to why the new barracks still in the construction stages on Fort Bragg were started in 2006. It doesn't take more than 2 years to build a barracks, unless you're taking your time doing it, in order to run up massive over costs. You might also ask why only CNN and the N.Y. Times reported this, as well as a few local North Carolina television stations.

This trend of treating our troops like dirt must end and it must end now. After Vietnam, we as a nation swore that we would never again let our returning men and women be treated like garbage, but yet we are allowing this President to keep gutting or diverting funding that is supposed to be used for our troops and their living expenses. Tell this administration that we demand no more no bid contracts to friends of friends, because if we wanted the mafia in the White House, we'd go to Brooklyn and hire our own thugs and goons.

Watch the video made by Edward Frawley below, and let your anger be heard.

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