Photos via Hots&Cotts.
Hots&Cots, a new app that lets U.S. soldiers share pictures and ratings of their meals and barracks, is full of photos of uncooked chicken, mold-coated air conditioning ducts, and bed bugs. Hots&Cots is the brainchild of former Army Reservist Robert Evans who told Motherboard he created it after seeing a report from a government watchdog about horrid housing conditions on American military bases. “Hots&Cots was created to assist with addressing the substandard living conditions of the U.S. military members,” the app says when a new user signs on.
U.S. military barracks are full of sewage, squatters, and disease. In September, the Government Accountability Office—a non-partisan group of Congressional investigators—published a damning report about the poor state of American military bases. The report was full of pictures of the unsafe, and often disgusting, living conditions of America’s troops.As first reported by Military.com, Evans is a software developer and former Army Reservist and Army National Guardsman. After seeing the report, a friend asked him how he’d feel about his kids joining the military. He told the friend he’d support his kids, but that he was worried about the direction of the military, especially given recent reporting on mold-ridden AC units and bathrooms filled with sewage. Evans’ friend had no idea what he was talking about.“I really wanted to create something that removed that mystery,” Evans told Motherboard. “To make it a little more publicly known.”
Hots&Cots, a reference to military slang for a hot meal and a place to sleep, is available on Android and iOS. It’s similar to Yelp, but specifically for military bases and the meals that are served on them. The idea is that U.S. military personnel can sign up for the app and upload pictures of their housing and meals so that, hopefully, the public and Pentagon leadership will see the photos and take their concerns seriously.
It’s not just civilians who are ignorant of poor conditions on base. Pentagon brass often don’t know how disgusting things are. Sometimes, they blame the rank and file enlisted for the issues. In October, an Army Major General went viral in military circles when he blamed filthy barracks on lazy soldiers.Evans said he respected the Major General and understood where he was coming from. Sometimes, he said, it’s hard for soldiers to keep up with cleaning duties. “But that’s not the case in every situation,” Evans said. “Where you have a mold infested barracks or the situation over at Fort Bragg with Smoke Hills Barracks. Is the general saying that the whole barracks had to be condemned because soldiers aren’t disciplined?” The Army condemned Smoke Hills Barracks in 2022 over concerns about mold and moisture in the building.One post on Hots&Cots shows a crumbling ceiling with an exposed pipe on a base in Germany. One star. Mold issues? Chronic, the user said. Another post showed dead bed bugs on a carpeted floor at Fort Eustis in Virginia. “Move in ready,” the post said. “Bed Bugs.” Another one star rating. Another post from user “NotMoldButDiscipline” showed off the gross buildup of mold on an AC vent at Fort Cavazos in Texas.
For Evans, reaching the civilian population was paramount. “People assume you’re going into the military, thinking you’re going to have a lot of things that are great, one of those being food, dining facilities, and barracks,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who leave the civilian world for the military to get a better life, myself included. And then they get there, there’s these subpar barracks. Mold infested, with some sort of bones or rats.”Hots&Cots lets service members post anonymously. According to Evans, protecting the identity of people posting was important because there’s often a stigma around complaining in the military. “I want soldiers and other service members to know that I have a hard line about revealing information,” he said. “That’s part of the stigma in the military. The lower enlisted you are, the harder it is to speak up because you fear what type of repercussions you’re going to face.”Evans also said he hoped his app could be about more than pictures of bed bugs and moldy vents. “I don’t want Hots&Cots to just be a place for complaints,” he said. “I also want to highlight what installations are doing well. Over Thanksgiving there were some really amazing [dining halls] that did great meals.”