As stop-loss order ends, GIs anticipate turnover
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — It’s that time of year for the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade.
A 90-day stop-loss order that was enacted after Iron Brigade soldiers returned from Iraq in November is set to end Wednesday, and soldiers and families are on the move, transferring elsewhere or leaving the Army altogether.
However, brigade representatives have refused to release numbers or discuss changes to the brigade and community.
In an e-mail last week, officials denied Stars and Stripes those numbers and general information on the basis of “operational security reasons.”
“Security and Administrative personnel, as well as myself, have decided that publicly discussing the numbers of Soldiers that are arriving and departing could provide useful intelligence into how U.S. Army Brigades reset after deployment,” brigade spokesman Sgt. 1st Class David Dockett wrote. “We do not wish to give adversaries any useful insights into our current disposition or how we conduct day-to-day operations while here or deployed.”
While precise numbers were not available, evidence throughout the community suggests a brigade in transition.
Approximately 700 soldiers have filed through the local Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) office seeking pre-separation counseling and resources since the brigade returned, officials said.
About 300 soldiers have gone through the office of Master Sgt. Eric Whidden, the Reserve component career counselor, in the past few months as well, with about one-half signing to fulfill the rest of their obligation in Reserve components.
“They’ve done three or four or five years, they’ve done that part of their contract and are going back home,” Whidden said of the soldiers he is helping.
Many of the soldiers coming through Whidden’s office are signing up for Army Reserve, National Guard or Individual Ready Reserve duty to get years taken off their eight-year obligation and to get a more stable deployment cycle, among other incentives.
One veteran who works and talks with soldiers in the area said that many have done two or three deployments since the war in Iraq started.
“It’s just repetitive,” said the veteran, who asked not to be identified. “They’ve had enough combat.”
Rebecca Morris, an ACAP counselor, said the 2nd Brigade and Baumholder community have been “very understanding” of what the soldiers need, and included ACAP resources in the seven-day reintegration schedule.
Over at the Lagerhof Inn on Smith Barracks, Doris Vela said the hotel’s 43 rooms — which are used for billeting and for personnel arriving or departing — have been booked solid for the past month.
“We’ve also booked all the German hotels,” said Vela, a desk attendant at the hotel. “Leaving and coming, whatever, we have no rooms.”
“February and March, everyone’s leaving,” said one enlisted soldier who didn’t wish to give his name. “This will be a whole new brigade come the next few months.”
In the Army since 2000, that same soldier is leaving next month to serve the rest of his obligation on IRR duty.
“The Army sent me to Korea for 18 months. Then I was here four to five weeks and they sent me to Iraq. Then they deployed me again.”
“I can’t do it,” he said of why he is leaving Baumholder and the Army. “I got two kids now, and too many friends I know who got hurt.”