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Keesler remains transparent, strives to improve privatized housing

View down McNarney Drive of some of the 36 new units opening to junior NCO families March 20 in Thrower Park.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

View down McNarney Drive of some of the 36 new units opening to junior NCO families March 20 in Thrower Park. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss --

In July 2019, the 81st Training Wing hosted housing forums to address the health, safety and quality concerns of military families living in base privatized housing.

In the three months since the forums, representatives from the 81st TRW, Hunt Housing, 81st Medical Group, 81st Security Forces Squadron, and the Military Housing Office have worked to provide updates and respond to residents’ questions and concerns. 

“The housing forums were very important to me as a means to confront our housing issues head on with transparency.  The action items we took from those forums formed the foundation for our continued work with Hunt to review base housing conditions, improve maintenance processes, and proactively address safety and security concerns,” said Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel confident we are making progress.  The progress is never as fast as I would like, but I’m not letting up on ensuring our base housing residents have a safe, secure, and healthful environment in which to live.”

Keeping in line with larger Air Force housing initiatives, Keesler’s privatized housing initiatives are grouped along five major lines of effort. Below are key updates on each initiative the Keesler wing leadership team is working.

Empowering residents

  • A Keesler Resident Advisory Board (K-RAB) was created to address concerns brought up by base housing residents and to track the completion of all issues talked about during the housing forums.  The K-RAB is also a venue where residents can attend and bring up new housing-related items the 81st Training Wing should address. The board meets the first Tuesday of every month at 5 p.m. at the Bay Breeze Event Center multipurpose room. All base residents are encouraged to attend.
  • Air Force leaders established the Resident Hotline, a 24/7, toll-free helpline that went live May 1. The call center has since received and assisted 45 callers. Residents with housing concerns that they have not been able to resolve with their local privatized or government housing office or chain of command can call toll-free at 1-800-482-6431.
  • After feedback from housing residents, Wing leadership developed a way to reduce the volume of the four giant voice speakers located closest to base housing for routine announcements. A process is in place to increase volume for emergency notifications.
  • The 81st Security Forces Squadron is researching an appropriate means to implement a neighborhood watch program.  More to follow on this item.

Improving oversight

  • Keesler commanders conducted a 100% health and safety check in 2019.  Data from this survey has informed the Wing leadership’s housing focus areas.
  • Hunt will be installing new “no parking” signs to ensure all emergency vehicles can safely enter and exit housing areas.
  • The Military Housing Office is working to hire three additional military housing office employees which will provide needed quality assurance, maintenance and housing officer support.
  • The proposed plan for bus stops is moving forward as the cost estimate has been completed.  Base leadership is working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to assess the installation process and determine potential locations.  
  • Wing leadership is working with Hunt to improve a moisture remediation process, including a single work order submission. This plan is also investigating repeat moisture remediation work within Keesler’s homes.  For expectation management, residents should anticipate a four-week start to finish response time for remediation work.   

Integrating leadership

  • Before a family moves back to their home from a hospitality home, Keesler instituted a mandatory walkthrough inspection with the resident, their leadership team or the MHO, and Hunt Housing.  The purpose of this inspection is to ensure the resident knows what work was done on their home, ensures all work in the work order was completed and that the home is move in ready.  
  • The 81st Mission Support Group is researching options for improving security measures to off-base housing to include raised curbing or barrier poles around gate entry areas. 
  • Hunt housing is still working on communications connections for the gate arm projects.  
  • Keesler security forces and Vectrus are assessing costs of speed bump options and locations to help slow down traffic.  In the meantime, Security Forces have increased patrols to monitor speeding in all housing locations
  • The 81st Medical Group implemented a four step process for those who feel they may experiencing health concerns due to mold exposure. Anyone in base housing who has had symptoms of mold exposure should call the appointment line to see their medical provider, complete a mold exposure questionnaire, specify where on base they are having mold issues and then give their medical provider consent to notify appropriate agencies to address their concerns.

Improving communication

  • On Aug. 29, 2019, the 81st Training Wing Commander published a Keesler AFB Resident Housing Guide Memorandum to formally address Keesler-specific items such as speeding, RVs and boats, and keeping all pets on a leash while walking in housing.
  • A Family Housing tile has been added to the 81 Training Wing in the AF Connect App.  Residents can apply for the K-RAB group and get the latest updates on housing action items or events.
  • Also on the Keesler page, residents can find the four-step process for reporting a maintenance issue.  
  • Wing leadership continues to explore ways to expand communication efforts with housing residents by mailing flyers, Keesler Resident Advisory Board, AF-Connect and housing forums.

Standardizing policy

  • All service branches are working to develop common leases.
  • The services have provided guidance on availability of legal assistance to residents.
  • The Air Force Inspection Agency is conducted a privatized housing survey and will inspect privatized housing processes on Keesler AFB Nov. 13-15.