Bush Tours Once-Squalid Latrine

President Bush, led by 1st Sgt. David Santos, inspects the renovated bathroom at Fort Bragg, N.C.
President Bush, led by 1st Sgt. David Santos, inspects the renovated bathroom at Fort Bragg, N.C. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 23, 2008

FORT BRAGG, N.C., May 22 -- President Bush toured a spic-and-span latrine Thursday that appeared vastly improved from a month ago, when an Internet video showed raw sewage and peeling paint in barracks used to house U.S. troops returning from Afghanistan.

U.S. Army officials said $3 million has been spent since then on improvements to the Korean War-era barracks, which will eventually be replaced as part of a massive military infrastructure plan.

"These buildings are coming down," Bush said after a tour of the restroom, which was freshly painted and devoid of mold, peeling paint or other shortcomings shown in the video. "And I know you appreciate it. The soldiers appreciate it."

Bush's visit to the barracks was added to a previously scheduled memorial ceremony at Fort Bragg for returning troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, most of whom had served extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years.

With 17,000 paratroopers assembled in formation, Bush gave a speech praising their efforts and declaring that the United States was "on our way to victory" in Iraq. He also presented awards for nine soldiers, two of them posthumously, and attended a private dedication for a memorial to the "Global War on Terrorism."

The dilapidated conditions at Fort Bragg were revealed last month after Ed Frawley, the father of Sgt. Jeff Frawley, posted a video on YouTube showing mold on the ceiling, a clogged bathroom drain and peeling paint at his son's barracks. Sgt. Frawley returned last month from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan.

The episode prompted widespread outrage and presented a political headache for the Bush administration, which last year endured revelations of substandard care and dilapidated buildings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other veterans' facilities.

The Army announced housing inspections at more than 180 other Army installations in response to the Fort Bragg video.

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