As the 2nd Cavalry operates in Baghdad, families receive much-needed knowledge
VILSECK, Germany — The 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment’s rear detachment members are getting information out to family members still in Germany as the unit suffers its first wounded soldiers in Iraq.
Spokesman Maj. Richard Spiegel confirmed Monday that a small number of 2nd Cav soldiers were wounded in action weeks after the unit arrived in Iraq to start a 15-month mission.
“I don’t think anybody has any illusions about what the mission is and that the mission is dangerous,” he said.
Maj. Tom Rickard, the rear detachment commander, said the regiment is providing information about what is happening downrange to family members still in Germany.
“What we have told them so far is that their soldiers are in central Iraq (and) they have done the transfer of authority with the unit they are replacing,” he said. “The guys are very much involved in their mission. They are ready and well-briefed.”
The American Forces Network reported last week that 2nd Cav is operating in Baghdad.
Rickard said the thing family members want most from the rear detachment is information.
“They want to know some of what their husbands are doing and how they are living,” he said.
Nicole Heller, whose husband is in Iraq with 2nd Cav on his fourth downrange mission, said she likes to hear from him to make sure he’s OK.
“But as far as information goes,” she said, “I know they are in capable hands and there is a lot of stuff spouses don’t need to know.”
“Or don’t want to know,” added Danielle Wilding, whose husband is on his first downrange mission with 2nd Cav.
One way families get information is through Family Readiness Groups. The regiment has 31 FRGs — one for each troop, Army Community Services deployment manager Kay Simpkins said.
Each group has a Web site that includes news about the regiment and emergency phone numbers, Rickard said.
The regiment has employed several full-time family readiness staff assistants to work with commanders and the FRGs, he said.
“They do all the administrative work that saps the time of the spouses or the FRG leader,” he said.
The rear detachment also plans monthly “Yellow Ribbon” patrols through military neighborhoods on- and off-post. Patrol members will answer family members’ questions, Rickard said.
Rickard said the Army has solid procedures for dealing with loss and that detachment members have rehearsed them to prepare for the worst, which would involve memorial ceremonies for fallen soldiers.
Simpkins said FRGs meet once a month to discuss activities within U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr and keep families engaged and busy.
“It is an adjustment phase, getting used to the soldiers not being here,” she said.
The Yellow Ribbon Room, in the Community Services building at Vilseck, has six computers set up for communications with soldiers downrange, Simpkins said.
Families can use Army chat rooms or video conference with soldiers downrange. They can also leave a video message for soldiers if they can’t both be in front of a computer at the same time, Rickard added.
Community Services offers monthly trips to towns near Vilseck and classes on employment, budgeting and parenting, she said.
A new parent support team includes a nurse and a social worker, who visit new moms to give them tips on motherhood, she said.
“The families here are very isolated. A lot of us had moms to help us with our babies but we don’t have that here,” she said.
There also are on-post classes for mothers and hospital visits for pregnant women to take the mystery out of giving birth in a German hospital, she said.
“We have a lot of new babies in the regiment,” Simpkins added. The regiment had about 300 babies in the past year, with more on the way, she said.