Monday, October 24, 2005

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) — Soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell have become accustomed to living in the past, stuck in a mix of dreary post housing that reflects years of add-ons and a hodgepodge of styles dating back to World War II.

But that is beginning to change for the soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, with more than $230 million in projects that include an overhaul of the barracks where single soldiers live and construction of a new headquarters for command units.

“It’s kind of like extreme barracks makeover,” said Jim Duttweiler, head of public works for this sprawling post along the Kentucky-Tennessee line.

Most of the soldiers who call Fort Campbell home will not be there to see the work. The division is deploying to Iraq and will return to a post cluttered with construction.

Planners hope to have all of the Fort Campbell barracks completed by 2008, with the bulk of work finished before the division’s 20,000 soldiers begin returning in June.

The most expansive projects include doubling the size of the post exchange to 280,000 square feet. When completed, the network of shops will be among the largest on any U.S. military installation.

Other projects include new headquarters and barracks for the Green Berets of the 5th Special Forces Group and the Night Stalkers of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and training areas better suited to prepare soldiers in the division to fight in urban areas.

The Army had not planned construction around the division’s deployment. Timing often hinges on congressional allocation of money for projects, not the wants of commanders, Mr. Duttweiler said.

About $165 million in additional construction costs have been budgeted for next year, and at least $26 million will go to area companies, which post officials say could help offset the revenue lost at local stores when the division leaves for Iraq.

Still, Fort Campbell lags in making the transition to support the modern mission. One million square feet of World War II-era wooden buildings still stand — a blessing for historians, but a barrier for soldiers who live there.

The soldiers’ new quarters — two rooms that adjoin a shared kitchen — feature amenities such as high-speed Internet and private telephones.

Pfc. Steven Spigarelli, 23, of Detroit, is among the members of the division’s 4th Brigade who moved into new barracks before deploying. He considers himself lucky never to have slept in the Army’s old barracks.

“Once you’re off work, it’s just like you’re off work at a civilian job,” Pfc. Spigarelli said. “It’s just like a home away from home.”

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