Disrespectful housing residents
By Colonel Jeffry Smith, 28th Bomb Wing commander
/ Published April 18, 2006
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
I spent nearly eight hours this past Sunday with a few of our Airmen who are being punished by working additional weekend duties. We decided this weekend to walk through the common areas of Centennial Housing to pick up any trash and loose debris on the main drag of Dakota Drive. What a dump.
Rarely do I have a chance to walk through an area - you'd be amazed at what you can see walking at 5 knots vice driving at 15 -- trash, trash and more trash.
What type things did we find? How about thirteen -- yes, 13 -- pornographic DVDs, five used diapers and nearly a handful of used and discarded pregnancy tests. Yep, you are reading this correctly. Forget the dozens of beer cans, soda cans, tires and general trash we found everywhere. I had eight Airmen on my "road gang," and they were equally disgusted. And there was enough dog waste to fill a large dumpster had we picked it up.
And the cigarette butts! Unbelievable. We collected more than eight large garbage bags of filthy cigarette butts. These were clearly thrown from a car window, flicked onto a front lawn or irresponsibly dropped. What's wrong with people? Are we that careless, that irresponsible and that inconsiderate of others that we would trash this beautiful base and our housing area? Do we actually care that little about others -- and their families -- to create a situation that could cause harm to others?
What about our children? What parent would like to see their teenager pick up and view porn DVDs? What are people thinking? These didn't blow out of anyone's trash can -- they were carelessly thrown from a probable disgruntled spouse. I don't know why -- and I don't care, but it's going to stop.
It's often said that auto renters "never wash a rental car." Too often, that's true. The reason? Because people who rent a car don't own it, therefore don't take care of it. There's no sense of "ownership." While rental car companies often sell rental cars, return them, et cetera, they may be able to take a loss. Our government housing is a one-time good deal -- we have what we have, and won't be getting any more any time soon, and we can't take a loss. So we must take care of our property. And that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of Ellsworth housing residents. Not the government, not the wing staff, not the housing office, not the contractors -- the residents are solely responsible for their house, their yard, their air, their grounds -- everything assigned to them. Period. Dot. End of discussion.
I view this problem (just as I did the wing's Driving Under the Influence problem) as a wing problem that will get a wing response. As such, I've given clear and unambiguous direction to our group and squadron commanders. I'm holding our commanders' feet to the fire to ensure housing compliance, both on base and in Dakota Ridge housing downtown. How?
Every week we'll send out our folks to inspect our yards and common areas. Those in clear violation of long-standing base housing rules for housing compliance will quickly be identified for action. When houses are observed with excessive trash, dog waste, et cetera, in their yards, we will conduct a no-notice health and safety inspection. This immediate team will be led by the 28th Mission Support Group commander, including the offender's squadron commander or first sergeant, housing office inspectors and our 28th Medical Group's public health officer (as necessary). A sign will be prominently placed in the front yard that reads, "PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY INSPECTION."
Following any third failure will result in immediate eviction from the house.
The Air Force does not "owe" housing to those who willfully and deliberately violate housing rules. Living in government housing is a privilege, not a right, and one that will not be allowed to be abused. This wing leadership goes above and beyond to take care of responsible Airmen and their families, and I will not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.