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Judging by the turnout for last week’s Family Readiness Group Deployment Information Training seminar, interest is high in what life will be like at Baumholder, Germany, after about 4,000 soldiers deploy to Iraq.

Judging by the turnout for last week’s Family Readiness Group Deployment Information Training seminar, interest is high in what life will be like at Baumholder, Germany, after about 4,000 soldiers deploy to Iraq. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Margaret Kuzma is staying.

She’ll have her job with the Army Community Service office to fill her days, as well as friends and a support network when Baumholder-based troops deploy later this year to Iraq.

And, Kuzma added, if she stays, she feels like she’ll be in a much better position to get information about the 1st Armored Division, where her husband, 1st Lt. Peter Kuzma, is with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.

She sees herself in one of three categories — those who feel comfortable in Baumholder, “who feel like their home is here,” and who have a support network, Kuzma said.

But there are people who aren’t connected to a support network here and feel like their home is in the States, she said.

“Then there’s a third category,” Kuzma said — those who feel trapped by regulations that say families can’t return with command sponsorship if they go home during the deployment.

“They’re staying,” she said, “but they’re not happy about it.”

The Army policy on early return of dependents, or ERD, is the same as in the previous deployment during 2003-2004, said Chris Macri, coordinator with Baumholder’s Department of Human Resources.

Families can request early return of dependents, but have to give specific reasons, such as health or educational needs, Macri said. First, Personnel Command reviews each request on recommendations of the base support battalion commander.

If a spouse decides to return to Germany at the end of the deployment, he or she has to pay transportation costs, and there’s no guarantee he or she will be able to get command sponsorship, Macri said. If they do receive command sponsorship, the sponsor will owe the Army an additional 24 months’ service at this post, he said.

But with changes growing out of the last deployment, no one should feel isolated or trapped if they stay, said Ginalyn Cowles, deployment mobilization specialist for Baumholder’s Army Community Service office.

One of the biggest changes is the creation of family readiness support assistants, or FRSAs, a new paid administrative position at Family Readiness Groups, which are organizations that pass on command information to spouses.

During the last deployment, FRG leaders were overwhelmed with calls, Cowles said. Now, FRSAs at the brigade and battalion levels will be paid points of contact, on-call information referral resources directing questions to officials best able to answer them, Cowles said.

The FRSA jobs are General Services-5 positions at battalion level and General Services-6 positions at brigade level. The jobs are 40 hours per week, and they pay between $11.50 an hour and $12.86 an hour, according to the latest GS pay charts.

With more support programs, spouses should not feel they’re struggling alone through the deployment, she said. “There are going to be tons of activities and tons of family agencies there to help spouses, family members and kids.”


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