BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The more family members who stay in Baumholder, the more stable base life will remain.

That’s the message 1st Armored Division and support agency officials are trying to get out as elements of the 1st AD prepare to deploy this fall for a second Iraq rotation.

“Reasons to stay,” said Ginalyn Cowles at the end of Wednesday’s packed Family Readiness Group Deployment Information Training seminar. With that, Cowles launched into a list of reasons spouses should at least think about not returning to the States when the troops head downrange.

“If you go back to small town USA or big city America, I guarantee you won’t have people within driving distance who understand what you’re going through … who know what it’s like to have loved ones in harm’s way,” said Cowles, deployment mobilization specialist for Baumholder’s Army Community Service office.

The more the community stays intact, the more people will be able to rely on each other, and rely on higher levels of staffing for base services, she said.

“The 1st AD’s message is, ‘We do want people to stay,’” Lt. Col. James Larsen, commander of the 222nd Base Support Battalion, said in a Thursday interview. “That may not be the right decision for every family, but we can better take care of them and better keep them informed here than when they’re stateside.”

Cowles, Larsen and others acknowledge that life for those staying behind will be different after the deployment of 4,000 soldiers from Baumholder-based 2nd Brigade, which includes the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment; the 40th Engineer Battalion Combat and parts of Division Artillery, including elements of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery.

But how much different remains to be seen, which is why Wednesday’s conference at H.D. Smith Barrack’s Rheinlander community center drew about 100 people.

Army families “want as much accurate information as they can get, and they know ACS is an excellent source,” Cowles said.

It will take a while to work out some details, such as Army and Air Force Exchange Service hours.

“I don’t see them changing initially,” Larsen said.

Larsen said he would like to see post exchange and shoppette hours stay the same. But if spouses leave, the work force could dwindle, sales plummet and AAFES would start operating at a loss, he said.

If that happens, AAFES, Installation Management Agency-Europe officials and Baumholder’s local leadership then would have to look at adjusting hours, Larsen said.

Store hours will be based on usage, said Gary Burton, AAFES regional general manager, Kaiserslautern Military Community. “It’s the amount of business; we’ll adjust according to meet [the] needs of [the] community,” Burton said.

He said he doesn’t see any huge changes, rather expecting “to do what worked well last time.” That may include going to a 6 a.m.-to-midnight schedule for the shoppette, for example, instead of 24 hours, Burton said.

A Defense Commissary Agency Europe spokeswoman says, however, it will be business as usual in Baumholder when the troops leave.

“All commissary hours stay the same, and there are no changes in services,” said Geri Young, public affairs officer at DECA’s European Region headquarters in Kaiserslautern.

In addition to AAFES and commissary concerns, many seminar attendees had questions about what social services will remain.

On the Family Readiness Group side, Cowles said most on-base civilian services will operate at present levels.

And some, related to Army services, are expanding. Those changes include new paid administrative positions at Family Readiness Groups, organizations that pass on command information to spouses.

Other groups, such as Morale, Welfare and Recreation, civilian mental health services and ACS will remain at their pre-deployment staffing.

Speakers at last week’s seminar also reminded attendees they can use existing programs, such as Volunteer Childcare in Unit Settings, which creates a mechanism to help units trade child care when Child and Youth Services care is not available.

Despite assurances, there’s still anxiety that the quality of life on base will deteriorate, said Cowles, whose husband, Capt. George W. Cowles, is with 4-27th.

Deployments are an especially stressful time, said Rick Thompson, a Baumholder social worker who spoke at the seminar. “Just hearing the news” can lead to an increase in people seeking counseling.

The bottom line, Burton said, “is that the more people stay, the better off everyone will be.”

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