Updated at 4pm on Feb. 22 to include a statement from the US Embassy in Qatar.
The US’s largest outpost in the Middle East suffers from mold, leaking ceilings and dilapidated bathrooms, according to members of the military who have been widely lamenting their living conditions at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Photos posted daily to the Facebook group “People of the Deid” paint a picture of low morale among some servicemen and women at the air base, which is home to about 11,000 people, according to the US Department of Defense.
The base houses the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and has been described as the “regional nerve center” for US-led strikes on ISIL.
According to the military, a plane takes off or lands from the base every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day.
Al Udeid made headlines last November when the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, visited and met with US military personnel as part of an initiative to support current and former soldiers and their families.
Under a December 2013 agreement, the US will continue operating the base through at least 2024. While the facility is on Qatari soil, a US embassy spokesperson said that the accommodation is not furnished or managed by the Gulf state.
Earlier this month, Tony Carr – a retired squadron commander with the US Air Force – argued that part of the problem is that the base’s senior leadership changes often.
Additionally, the facility straddles the line between a warfighting outpost close to the front lines and a permanent base, which leaves it without long-term budget stability from the US military.
In a blog post, he added that conditions inside the Coalition Compound were unacceptable:
“Airmen are not entitled to, nor do they expect, luxurious living conditions. They are entitled to, and rightly expect, the best conditions reasonably possible under the circumstances.
Leaders owe a duty to their people to meet this expectation. Al Udeid is an example of multiple leaders at multiple levels over multiple years failing to fulfill this basic duty.”
Many of the complaints – which include photos of a mattress speckled with what appears to be mold, dead insects inside a soap dispensary and a video of a washroom with dark moisture stains running down the wall – are focused on the base’s older accommodation, which is known as the Coalition Complex.
More modern accommodation and amenities are in the works. For example, last year the military opened a new 392-room dormitory facility aimed at moving some of the base’s residents out of the Coalition Complex.
In a statement at the time, Lt. Col. Tiffany Warnke, 379th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, called the move a “two-fold victory.”
“First, our Airmen no longer have to reside in extremely dilapidated facilities without central latrine and showers,” she said.
“Additionally, the men and women that maintain AUAB’s infrastructure no longer have to limp along old facilities that are far beyond their useful life.”
Additional phases of the new dormitory – which recently added a US$60,000 golf simulator to its recreational amenities – are planned.
However, construction has been reportedly plagued by technical problems, including faulty wiring.
A military spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Editor’s note: After this article was published, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Qatar provided the following statement:
“The facilities mentioned in the article were not furnished by the government of Qatar. The United States would like to reiterate its profound thanks to Qatar for its unparalleled support in hosting the U.S. and other Coalition forces at Al-Udeid Air Force Base.”