Coast Bases In Better Shape Than Many Others

Firefighters at the Air National Guard Base in Gulfport, are cooking lunch in their new fire station. Just six months ago, they were working out of a building marked with peeling paint, and a roof that had been ripped off by Hurricane Georges in 1998.

Chief Greg Marks says the conditions at the old fire station were quite frankly substandard. Looking at the new $2.3 million dollar fire station, he says they've created a Taj Mahal, and enhanced the living conditions immensely.

The base has made other changes to enhance the living conditions, including building a new hangar, dining hall and three new dorms. All the improvements over the past three years, total more than $17 million.

Lt. Col Lance Hester says the dorms used to be open-bay barracks, single bunk bed type. The bathrooms were in a different building, so they had to walk outside to take a shower or go to the restroom. Now, it's almost like a hotel room, because they have their own facilities.

In Biloxi, the seventh new dorm is going up at Keesler Air Force Base. Along with more modern, spacious living quarters, the base has also added a new Base Exchange, dining halls and a training support facility. Plans are in the works to build an eighth dorm, plus a new service station and a mini B-X.

Ray Wilson says if you live in a better place, you have a better outlook, and you're more motivated to go to training. He says being able to come home to facilities that have better amenities than the older dormitories, has definitely raised everyone's motivation level.

Lt. Col. Lance Hester says students now have state-of-the-art equipment, buildings and facilities. Also, everything's air conditioned, unlike before, when they were out in the elements. He says all the improvements have raised morale at least 100%.

The Gulfport Seabee Base also plans to build new barracks, starting next year.  All this boost in the quality of life, can help the military recruit and keep people in the service.

By: Trang Pham-Bui