Against the backdrop of congressional inquiries about the condition of housing on military bases worldwide -- including mold, pest problems and unmitigated lead paint -- a newly released U.S. Army Garrison Japan video places the onus for healthy housing on occupant "prevention," not on those tasked with keeping housing safe.
The video, posted April 15 to the Pentagon's media portal, seems to attempt humor with a dramatic, movie preview tone.
But instead of being funny or even a good reminder that, yes, mold is bad and, yes, prevention is good, it leans strongly toward victim blaming.
"It was a day just like any other in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood," a narrator says against footage of rain falling in what appears to be a military housing neighborhood.
"I couldn't believe it when I found it. It was everywhere," a woman says, breathlessly horrified. "It was in the kitchen; it was in the bathroom. I can't even think about it."
The "it" in question, of course, is mold -- a fact the video makes abundantly clear through continued narration and footage of various mold blooms on ceilings, window panes and food.
"If left untreated, [it] can slowly but steadily spread throughout your home," the narrator says.
That is a truth with which military families are very much familiar, thanks to years of experience dealing with poor housing conditions.
But it isn't, as the video suggests, a lack of prevention that has caused the issue, according to information gathered recently; it's the condition of the housing. That, at least, is what news reports, congressional hearings and a community survey have noted in recent months.
So bad is the housing across Army bases that top service officials met with the heads of privatized housing companies after a Senate committee held hearings on how the issues will be addressed. They then traveled to Fort Meade, Maryland, to conduct an in-person inspection, where they saw what they called "unacceptable ... deficient housing conditions."
Unlike the majority of housing across Army installations, the homes at U.S. Army Garrison Japan are managed by the service itself, not by a privatized company. But rather than remove responsibility, it makes the video seem even more tone-deaf. It was poor housing conditions, not unlike those currently under scrutiny, that the Pentagon sought to fix by moving to privatization in the first place.
According to the video, you can follow a variety of steps to prevent mold in your Army housing, including using commercial products to clean any you see, controlling the humidity level, having proper ventilation, and thoroughly cleaning and drying any damp areas after "heavy rainfall or flooding."
Not mentioned among the tactics? Maintenance or prevention by housing officials.