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HEIDELBERG, Germany — The top Army command in Europe says a final decision on extending 1st Armored Division soldiers in Iraq has been made. Details, however, aren’t being released.

A spokeswoman for Gen. B.B. Bell, the chief of U.S. Army Europe, said soldiers and family members were being notified Wednesday through family support networks and command channels.

“The families and soldiers have been notified of the status of 1 AD. However, we are awaiting the official announcement from Washington,” Lt. Col. Jane Crichton said Wednesday.

“We expect an announcement shortly,” she added, declining to elaborate.

Betty Harter, a Family Readiness Group leader for Battery B, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment in Baumholder, got the word late Wednesday afternoon to start informing FRG members of the extension.

“We had already put the word out before that it was pretty much likely,” Harter said. “Now we have something official and I’ll send an e-mail out to everybody and if someone calls, we’ll talk about what we do next.

“But they were prepared, so it’s not surprising.”

Harter’s FRG includes about 112 spouses, mostly wives, she said. As FRG leader, she will let the spouses know about the extension with the help of two aides.

“Everybody doesn’t have e-mail, so, for those, I will call them myself,” she said. “Other ladies I talk to will tell me: ‘She’s my neighbor, I’ll let her know.’”

Ignacio Rubalcava, spokesman for the 222nd Base Support Battalion in Baumholder, deferred all questions about the deployment extension to Crichton.

About 1,600 1st AD soldiers from a number of units have already returned to Germany from Iraq, but many could be called back to their still-deployed units, officials said Tuesday. 1st AD officials in Iraq could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.

Cpl. Robert Harter, husband of the FRG leader and with the 47th Forward Support Battalion in Baumholder, said, “On the sixth day I was back [from Iraq], I was told I would have to turn around and go back at an undetermined time. It’s pretty much written in stone from the information I’ve gotten.

“I don’t like it; I just got home and just got back to my family [wife Betty and 9-year-old son, John]. But it’s even worse for the people downrange who didn’t get to come back and spend some time with their family. I know they are really taking it hard down there.”

Then he paused and continued: “It’s a volunteer Army. Absolutely nobody was drafted. This is what everybody signed up for. It’s unfortunate we’re being extended, but it’s part of the job. We go where they tell us to go.”

Family members of the 1st AD have been reeling for the past few days, speculating that their husbands, wives, fathers or mothers would have to stay longer than planned. Now, many are getting the official notification.

U.S. Central Command officials have asked for an additional 10,000 troops to help quell surging in violence in Iraq. Battles throughout the country have left at least 87 U.S. troops dead since April 1, making it the deadliest month since the war began a year ago.

Meanwhile, the violence could continue.

President Bush said Tuesday that the mission in Iraq “may become more difficult before it is finished.”


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