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Behind These Walls.

"This is the lap of luxury compared to what I had."

A statement that's true if you're Mess Management Specialist 2nd Class Mark Aul, and you lived in the BEQ he did when he first entered the Navy.

"Let me set the scene for you," said Aul. "Years ago, on NAS Pensacola, I didn't have just one roommate, I had 83."

All 84 junior Sailors were packed like sardines into an open bay, sleeping in steel racks stacked two high -- 21 sets per side of the room- with little, if any, personal space.

The weather-worn, World War II design, open-bay barracks left little to make them feel at home. Rather, they were reminded of the place many of them had just left -- basic training.

"We had an open head, you know, like the one you used in boot camp," said Aul. "Where modesty was overrated and personal time was unheard of."

The heads weren't the only reminder of boot camp they had.

If they weren't in their racks by lights out, then they were locked out. They dealt with the occasional pest or cockroach that occupied the area. And keeping their area clean was no short task in itself. They waxed and huffed the cold floor by hand once a week.

So what do Sailors living in the BEQs around the world have to complain about today?

"Nothing," said Aul, sitting at the front desk of Enterprise Hall, one of Naval Station Norfolk's newest Bachelor Enlisted Quarters. "Like I said, these Sailors are living in luxury."

This is a look and feel that many of the Navy's BEQs are now beginning to take on. While comfort and style have always been an issue with barracks tenants, Sailors like Fireman Apprentice Sorida Ivanes, who is attached to the legal offices of Norfolk Naval Station, find BEQ rooms more than suitable.

"This place is really nice' said Ivanes talking about Enterprise Hall. "They keep it really clean here. I have privacy, and my roommate, Amy Lewis, and I get along great."

"Only having one roommate is great," countered Electronics Technician Seaman Amy Lewis, attached to NCTAMSLANT Naval Station Norfolk. "Sorida and I are close, and it makes coming home to my barracks room more agreeable."

The roommate scenario is not the only thing making these Sailor's lives more enjoyable in the BEQs. Many have kitchenettes to cook small meals and laundry services on every floor.

These vast improvements throughout the Navy are all part of quality of life issues currently being addressed by top Navy officials, like Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SS/SW/AW) Jim Herdt.

"Sailors deserve anything we can do to make quality of life in the barracks better," said MCPON. "As a whole, life in the barracks is better now than it was 30 years ago when I lived in them. Sailors deserve nice accommodations."

And Sailors around the country and the world are getting those accommodations. The BEQ metamorphosis is apparent on installations all over. This construction is forging a new future in the way our Sailors will be housed.

Like the barracks on Naval Station North Island, San Diego, where Aviation Structural Mechanic (Hydraulics) Airman David Hurst is "living independently."

"It's like my own little apartment," said Hurst. "I have everything I need, like computer hook-up, cable, air conditioning and a ceiling fan. A place Out in town would probably cost a ton. I have a friend who lives in town and pays close to $800 for a one-bedroom apartment; that doesn't even include the $200+ a month for electric and other bills."

It's not only Hurst who feels this way about living in the Navy's BEQs; many of his friends and co-workers are taking full advantage of what barracks life can offer them.

"I plan on making the Navy my career, and I have a great opportunity living in the barracks to have time to myself and save money for the future," said Aviation Structural Mechanic (Structural) 3rd Class Patrick Naville, Hurst's roommate. "I get everything I need here without having to live paycheck to paycheck."

So, the next time the cable momentarily goes out, or the phone in your room seems a little fuzzy, and your roommate has been in the bathroom for more than five minutes when you need it, think about how it was then and how it is today. Admit it -- you have luxury. Not the kind of luxury that comes with silver spoons, fine china and oriental rugs. But, you could be watching an old black-and-white television with no cable in a stuffy lounge, or be waiting in line for hours to use the one and only pay phone down the hall, or combing your hair for a date while 83 other Sailors are looking over your shoulder.

Now that your environment is more relaxed and your style is less cramped ... getting that date is still up to you.

Watson is a photojournalist assigned to All Hands.
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Title Annotation:sailors accommodations luxurious compared to past
Author:Watson, Jim
Publication:All Hands
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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