Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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I've been busy lately getting ready for the arrival of my mom and aunt tomorrow! I've been planning our traveling, cleaning the house (again!), getting a little work done at my office, and even planning for some trips Bryan and I are going to take when he gets back. Woohoo!
Here's an interesting article I just found on the Stars and Stripes website.

Spouses say community helping Baumholder cope
War and separations have strained 1st AD families

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Most people soldier on.

But three years of war, long separations from family and fallen friends are starting to take a toll on the home front. Add a lack of information and communication, fears of an extension, base budget cuts and ongoing transformation, you’d think you’d have a perfect storm of angst at this Army base.

Yet, even the most dissatisfied say a sense of community — often missing other places — seems to hold this 1st Armored Division post together.

Jennifer Sewell laid out her philosophy: Life is still good for spouses with friends, activities and reasonable expectations.

Her husband may be one of the few not deployed, but he’s spent 100 days in the field this year, said Sewell, 23, who arrived in 2004 during the division’s first Iraq deployment. Despite the tough times, she hasn’t heard much complaining.

People have frustrations here, but she said she hasn’t sensed anger on a large scale: “Maybe one of 20 people is upset.”

Medical personnel tend to agree. With slightly more than two months before about 4,000 troops are scheduled to return, the community is coping reasonably well, they say.

Since April, 17 Baumholder-based soldiers have died in Iraq.

Though there are those struggling, “it’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,’” said one medical expert, who like others did not want to be named. Those same experts add that they’re seeing rising doubts about the Iraq mission. Yet most interviewed for this article were more interested in the personal, rather than the political.

While most spouses were willing to speak on the record, all but one asked that their husbands’ names not be used because they were giving their own opinions.

If there is a common issue at Baumholder, it’s the perceived lack of information and contact with soldiers — not just while they’re in Iraq, but through a series of months-long separations that began well before the November 2005 deployment. Baumholder units under the 2nd Brigade Combat Team did two full training cycles at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels.

Many Baumholder soldiers are fighting in insurgent-held Ramadi. In Ramadi, 1st AD soldiers and Marines are setting up small combat outposts, driving into the 450,000-population city, trying to isolate the enemy in the center. At the small outposts, there are no communications.

During her husband’s first Iraq deployment, they talked or e-mailed every day, said Leslie Pineto, newly arrived from the 1st AD’s 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment at Fort Riley, Kan. Not this time.

At one point, Amanda Garcia said she was terrified because she hadn’t heard from her husband for two weeks.

Her only information came from a May 21 story in Stars and Stripes that quoted Pentagon officials as saying some 2nd Brigade soldiers were going north. Her Family Readiness Group leader responded with an e-mail stating the article was wrong, she said.

“Then they confirmed (the information) a week later … It’ll make you crazy.”

Another spouse who asked not to be identified said after the move to Iraq, her 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment FRG called a meeting. “We had the impression we were going to get hard information,” she said. Instead, meeting topics turned out to be Afghan sales and bake sales, she said. “Everyone left that meeting so frustrated.”

“Everyone says, ‘That’s the Army.’ But it’s not the Army,” Garcia said. When she and her husband were at Fort Carson, Colo., command and FRGs kept them up to date, she said. At Baumholder, her frustration with her FRG and what she describes as a failure to communicate “makes everything seem worse.”

Maj. Jeanine White, 2nd Brigade rear detachment commander, reiterated that information in Stars and Stripes has been inaccurate, but did not elaborate.

“Until I can give them a fact, I can give no information,” White said. Acknowledging troop movements “could put thousands of lives in danger,” she said, adding that she can’t release information until the movement is complete.

In mid-August, White said the deployment orders remain “365 days, or until mission complete.” Most people interviewed assume there will be an extension. That would mean crossing a fundamental psychological barrier, many spouses told Stars and Stripes.

Kristin DeLuca’s husband, Capt. Sean Frerking, has told her to prepare for the possibility of an extension and that he’ll miss another Christmas with his family. In nine years, first as an enlisted soldier, then as an officer, his deployments have become longer and more frequent, DeLuca said.

Her husband has been gone so much that he’s missed much of his life with her and daughter, Shoshanna, 4, DeLuca said.

He could leave the Army on April 30, 2007. “I don’t see him staying in,” she said.

Alison Errington, an FRG leader with Battery C, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, doesn’t disagree that deployments and training have taken officers and soldiers away from families. Of the 3½ years the family has spent at Baumholder, her husband has been home a total of only about one year because of deployments or training.

But her husband loves his job, “and he’s good at it,” she said. To support him, it’s her job as battery FRG leader to try to bring spouses together to develop friendships so they aren’t burdening their husbands with all their troubles, she said.

If his soldiers aren’t stressing about the home front, “that’s going to make my husband’s job easier. The more focused his soldiers are, the safer my husband is going to be,” Errington said.

2 comments:

Pixie said...

Ahhhh. My kingdom for an FRG.

Have fun with your family!!!!! Take lots of pictures!

Pixie said...

Hope Sierra, Jae and baby are doing well... and that you are having a wonderful time with your mom and aunt!!!!

Happiness you.