ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. airlines are helping soldiers and families from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team by refunding tickets or allowing flight plans to be rescheduled, Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the Army’s chief of personnel, told reporters Monday.

The Fort Wainwright, Alaska, brigade was on the verge of returning home in late July after a yearlong Iraq deployment, and thousands of soldiers and family members had bought plane tickets in anticipation of vacations and reunions.

But on July 27, the brigade learned that their homecoming was being postponed for up to four months so the unit could be rushed from Mosul to Baghdad to help quell ongoing violence there.

Thousands of families had airline tickets purchased in advance that said “nonrefundable” in the fine print, Rochelle said, but the airlines “stepped up” and helped, issuing refunds and otherwise working with 172nd members, he said.

Rochelle credited the brigade’s home state airline with setting the example.

“Alaska Airlines led that particular charge,” Rochelle said

Rochelle said that cruise lines also have been very cooperative about refunding or postponing tickets purchased by 172nd families.

The brigade’s 4,000 soldiers and their families have had to cope with problems such as follow-on assignments and schooling that are now in jeopardy, and permanent-change-of-station moves that must be postponed, Maj. Gen. Charles Jacoby, commander of the U.S. Army Alaska, said in a video hookup from Fairbanks, Alaska, during Monday’s news conference.

To help U.S. Army Alaska personnel break through Army and Defense Department red tape, Army leaders sent an eight-soldier “tiger team” of experts from the Pentagon to Fairbanks last week “to identify, and in some cases, resolve issues on the spot,” the team’s leader, Col. Dennis Dingle, said from the Pentagon.

Those issues that couldn’t be fixed immediately, “we will continue to work … until these issues are resolved,” Dingle said.

Many of the families’ most urgent problems were transportation-related, Dingle said — particularly in the cases where spouses had already started moving households to “the lower 48” in anticipation of their husbands’ new assignments.

In a few instances, he said, household goods had been shipped, and tiger team members had to locate them and have them sent back to Alaska.

In other instances, Dingle said, the team had to help families deal with child-care issues, such as two cases where the soldiers’ families had sent their children to relatives in anticipation of soon moving to that area.

Other issues included extending leases for rental properties and sorting out base housing in cases where properties had already been assigned to incoming families.

Then there are the psychological issues associated with the extension, particularly for the children, Jacoby said.

“This comes as a huge disappointment to families, and perhaps a greater disappointment to kids,” Jacoby said.

The brigade has brought in additional child psychologists, family life counselors and adolescent counselors to help families cope with the stress of the extension, Jacoby said.

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