Nearly eight months after seeing her household goods shipped off, Kardice Brown still is awaiting six of seven crates containing her belongings.

Two fellow Department of Defense Dependents Schools teachers fared better; they got their stuff after nearly six months of waiting.

The worst of it, the teachers said, is that they have incurred thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses for which they will see no reimbursement.

The saga started this summer when the three were transferred from Bahrain to other DODDS-Europe schools after terrorism threats prompted the U.S. military to evacuate dependents from the Persian Gulf country. In mid-September, it made an assignment to Bahrain an unaccompanied tour.

When the schools’ student population dropped from 700 to about 390, so did the need for teachers, said Linda Curtis, superintendent of the DODDS’ Isles District. No dependents of military personnel attend the school; students are children of State Department employees or international, tuition-paying students.

Some teachers were moved to other schools.

Their household goods did not always follow them as planned.

“Borrowing, buying and begging,” Brown said in describing her first six months as a fourth- grade teacher at Lajes Elementary School in the Azores.

The problem of the delayed shipment is limited to those three teachers, whose goods were lost in the shuffle of disorder of a base in the midst of evacuating its non-essential residents and a Navy “crew swap” on base, said Lt. Cmdr. Darryl Gordon, personal property officer in Bahrain.

The teachers’ goods were “caught in the stop-movement order,” caused by the evacuation.

“Because of the evacuation, we didn’t want any dependents’ shipments moving into the area,” Gordon said. “In a stop-movement, everything is stopped and then we go back to each and every one to unblock and redirect.”

The DODDS employees’ shipments are handled by the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the same organization that moves military personnel.

Usually, those moving through a permanent change of station are told to expect to receive their household goods within 60 days of movers packing them up.

Sixty days came and went for Sam Ochinang and his family, who transferred to Incirlik High School in Turkey, and had prepared to live in the warmer climates of the Middle East.

But the cold winter in Turkey forced them to invest in winter clothing, and their shipment gone astray required that they buy linens, cookware and rent a car, Ochinang said.

The only funds available to offset moving costs are four months of Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance, paid to cover costs such as meals and laundry.

“There is no other fund that kicks in” to reimburse them for expenditures because of the delayed shipments, said Tom Ellinger, DODDS’ Mediterranean District superintendent.

Steve Osborne, European director for the Overseas Federation of Teachers, is representing the teachers in an appeal for reimbursement, but said he’s not hopeful they’ll prevail because no remedy exists within the military, education or transportation systems for such expenditures.

“I don’t think there’s much we can do, but we’re trying to recoup some of the costs they had to pay out,” Osborne said.

Lost treasures

When the U.S. military closed Bahrain to dependents because of terrorist threats, several teachers were moved to new Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

In the case of three of them, their household goods became delayed in the shuffle. As a result, the teachers have had to go through a chaotic winter and months of teaching without many of their possessions.

In 17 years of teaching, Kardice Brown, rerouted from Bahrain to Lajes Elementary School in the Azores, has developed quite a collection of resource materials she uses to teach her fourth-grade students.

That’s what she says she misses most among the seven crates of household goods floating somewhere on the planet.

She’s been told her goods were in Bahrain at one point, and for a reason no one has been able to explain, now are somewhere in the United States.

“I’ve been told a lot of things. None of them good explanations,” said Brown, 58. “I’m old, old and tired and just don’t want to deal with this anymore."

When the Bahrain school was closed, it ended Kathy Sweeney’s hope of finishing her long teaching career in a country she’d always dreamed of living in.

Because of her narrow field as a reading specialist, Sweeney was redirected to her only option within the DODDS system. This fall, she started her 28th year with DODDS by taking a job at La Maddalena Elementary School on the Italian island of Sardinia.

Sam Ochinang, shifted to Incirlik High School in Turkey, is entitled to seek monetary compensation for damage to some of his household goods that finally arrived. But he’ll never recoup the sentimental price for the ruined baseball cards and Marvel superhero comic books his now-college-aged son has collected since childhood, he said.

He hasn’t yet told his son, away at school in California. He’s looking for the right words.

“I’ll tell him,” Ochinang sighed. “I’ll be as straightforward as possible.”

— Sandra Jontz

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