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ONLY ON WCNC: Carolinas at center of housing investigation on U.S military bases

While Congress investigates the deplorable conditions facing some soldiers and their families, we wanted to know what's being done for our servicemen and women.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolinas are at the center of a massive housing investigation on U.S. military bases.

We have one of the largest military footprints in the country, with both states home to eight bases, representing every branch of the U.S. military.

While Congress investigates the deplorable conditions facing some soldiers and their families, we wanted to know what's being done for our servicemen and women.

"It felt like we were stepping on a waterbed because of the water that was underneath," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Britt Crolley.

He was ready for Hurricane Florence but he wasn't expecting this. 

"So when you stepped on here, you could just feel the water underneath it," said NBC Charlotte's Sarah French. 

"A good inch at its highest depth of water pooled up in here," he said.

The Rock Hill native called Corvias, the private company that runs housing on the base, to take care of the issue in the converted garage playroom.

"To the best of my knowledge, no one ever came and looked at it. I wasn't here at least if they did," Crolley said.

Fortunately, this experience wasn't anything like what other families have seen, like the Kilpatrick family at Fort Bragg.

"When you turned on our shower head, green sludge came out of it into the shower," Rachael Kilpatrick said.

In a recent NBC News investigation, Calvin and Rachael Kilpatrick told NBC they moved to Fort Bragg a year ago. 

They said water was leaking from ceilings and from the air conditioning unit. There was termite damage, and worst of all, mold in the carpets and walls.  

Their multiple requests for repairs went to Corvias.

"We kept being told to stay in our lane, that we didn't know what we were talking about," said Rachael Kilpatrick.

The couple told NBC News they began battling health problems, including trouble breathing and other symptoms that they say doctors chalked up to the mold. 

A Reuters investigation centering around military families left in the dark by privatized housing companies, operating on U.S. bases, sparked a congressional investigation into the issues that have left thousands of our nation's protectors exposed to mold, asbestos, lead poisoning, rodent infestations, and poor construction.

"So, obviously there needs to be something done to make sure certain standard that both military side and privatized housing community are both meeting," said Crolley.

At Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, we asked what's happened since the military ordered all bases to conduct a 100% door to door review of potential issues. 

"We went out there collected 139 issues related to health and safety and so for each one of those issues we worked with Corvias to get an action plan to address all of those issues," said Lieutenant Colonel Ross Dotzlaf.

That includes new customer service training across its 13 military housing installations.

"If people have issues, they don't have to suffer in silence. They have plenty of avenues out there," Dotzlaf said.

But this wasn't the case for Heather Beckstrom's family.

In her only on camera interview, Beckstrom told NBC Charlotte that fear of retaliation kept her quiet about the health problems her children experienced while living on Fort Bragg with a toilet that was chronically overflowing with sewer water.

Beckstrom does not have medically conclusive statements from doctors that identify causes for the ailments suffered by her family. But in a private hearing, she testified to congress saying three of her five children suffered different issues including leukemia, seizures, and one born with birth defects that had to be corrected through surgery after birth. 

"You know, handing over your baby, and I remember telling the anesthesiologist, please just bring him back, probably going to cry, I just want him back. So that is the hardest," Beckstrom said.

Complaints from Fort Bragg have been at the center of the congressional investigation in which lawmakers have made no secret they are livid.

"I'm infuriated by what I'm hearing today. This is disgusting," said Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a former Air Force pilot. 

The founder and CEO of Corvias testified at a recent Senate armed services committee hearing.

"We let down some of our residents," said John Picerne. "I am sorry, and we are going to fix it."

In a written statement to NBC News, the company said it was working "to reduce the backlog of work orders and improve our response time to service requests."

It also said it was moving resident call centers back to local installations instead of remote third-party call centers -- and hiring a consulting firm to review its mold and mildew procedures.

The Military Family Advisory Network conducted a survey and got more than 16,000 responses. Fifty-five percent of the respondents had a "negative" or "very negative" experience with privatized military housing.

"How does that make you feel as someone that is serving our country as well?" asked French.   

"Ya know, I want the best for our residents whether they are at this base or any other military members at any other installations," Dotzlaf said. 

The Department of Defense is proposing a new "tenant bill of rights". It's intended to increase the accountability of privatized housing companies by putting more oversight authority in the hands of local military leaders.

The Military Family Advisory Network released another report on Wednesday that details the experiences of nearly 17,000 military families across the country.


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