Following feedback from soldiers, Fort Wainwright implements quality of life improvements

FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) There have been changes on Fort Wainwright to improve soldier’s quality of life -- including blackout curtains installed in barracks, the centrally located dining facility opening back up, and construction of a winter maintenance facility.

Winter Maintenance Facilities are under construction on Fort Wainwright so soldiers do not have to conduct maintenance on vehicles in the cold. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

According to Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Specialist Eve Baker, during town hall meetings, quality of life surveys, and conversations between senior leaders and soldiers, officials heard that soldiers were having sleep issues due to the unique challenges of living in Interior Alaska. Soldiers said these sleep issues were affecting their ability to conduct their work effectively and efficiently.

There have been multiple quality of life projects implemented, some of which focused on sleep. For the winter, there are now 450 “happy lights” to be checked out for soldiers, their families, and DOD ID holders. According to Baker, there were also 2,590 black out curtains installed in barracks on Fort Wainwright and Fort Greely to help with the extreme daylight hours in the summer.

Sergeant Ole Oshaug, a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry regiment, recently returned from a deployment. He says the blackout curtains have made a difference, “because of the daylight up here in Alaska during the summer time, it’s real helpful for us soldiers to get enough sleep.”

Oshaug says in the past, they would use black sheets from the store on post to block out the light from the window. “It works, but this is a much better solution, just one of the very good courses of action the command up here in Alaska has implemented for us soldiers,” said Oshaug.

He says it’s part of a soldier’s performance triad -- sleep, activity and nutrition -- “but it’s also a way to prevent soldiers from being depressed and lonely,” said Oshaug.

When it comes to soldier’s daily life, some soldiers had to travel further to eat since the main dining facility was closed for two years while the floors were replaced and upgrades were made.

As well as replacing the floors and upgrading the kitchen, they added amenities such as Wi-Fi, and outlets for soldiers to charge their phones. The area is now opening back up on June 1, meaning that the soldiers will now have a more centrally located dining facility again.

“The soldiers were going to eat at building 3728 on the other side of post, so it’s a little bit of a farther walk for the soldiers from the barracks, or even from the motor pools where they work at. So this won’t be as far as a distance for the soldiers to come eat, as this is centrally located,” said Command Food Advisor Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Hess.

Hess said it would be a huge advantage for soldiers not having to walk a far distance in the cold temperatures to the dining facility. He also mentioned the new shuttle service on post, which helps soldiers get around on post and to the dining facility.

Maintenance Winter Facilities are under construction to help soldiers conduct maintenance on vehicles throughout the winter. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph Rangelfalu says normally it would take 72 hours to thaw out the vehicles before they could work on them.

“Once it starts getting below ten degrees, it’s kind of difficult due to the fact that the vehicles get very cold, and for the soldiers just to touch and do the maintenance on the vehicles, ya know it’s for their safety, not to get frost bite,” said Rangelfalu.

Once the eight maintenance winter facilities are constructed, the battalions will be able to house one third of their vehicles inside.

“The morale for the soldiers will be a lot higher due to the fact that they don’t have to stand above the Stryker and shovel off all the snow, which is time consuming. It is going to build up the morale for them to just get in there, get the job done as quick as possible and as safe as possible,” said Rangelfalu.

He says the goal is to keep the facilities up to 40 degrees to keep the vehicles ready for maintenance. The soldiers will be able to stay covered and warm while conducting vehicle maintenance.

The facilities will be ready for vehicles to move inside around August. “We should be able to see vehicles moving in there, just to get the parking slots allocated and get them parked the right way so all twenty can fit inside the vehicle maintenance facility,” said Rangelfalu.

More projects are still in progress on post, and we will continue to cover the changes as they go into effect.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.