Congresswoman queries DOD after 1st ID spouse complaint
August 9, 2006
In response to complaints from a military spouse in Germany, a U.S. congresswoman has queried the Defense Department regarding the 1st Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade’s practices as it readies itself for deployment to Iraq.
Staff members for U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., have asked the DOD for information regarding the brigade’s deployment on behalf of one of Harris’ constituents, Pfc. Jon Spielsinger, a member of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment’s Company A.
An e-mail letter sent to Harris by Spielsinger’s wife, Sara Stefanski, questioned the brigade’s numerous deployment delays, long work hours and the stress of conflicting information given to personnel and family.
A similar letter from Stefanski ran in the Aug. 1 edition of Stars and Stripes. In the letter, Stefanski said the stress caused by the delays and uncertainty had been “horrible.”
The “Dagger” Brigade has had numerous delays since receiving notification in November to prepare for a May deployment. When May came around, a Pentagon spokesman said the brigade’s deployment was “on hold.”
Many of the soldiers and family members are frustrated by the deployment situation, said Stefanski, whose husband is going through his first deployment.
In her letter, she wrote that her husband “spends his days and weekends sitting on the floor in the hallway of his company doing absolutely nothing. Instead of sending the 145 people who don’t have work to do home to their families, they are forced to sit at work until 10 p.m., 11 p.m. or midnight.”
During in interview last week, Stefanski said, “I honestly don’t think it’s acceptable. A lot of people say this is the Army, this is what you deal with, you join and accept it. But soldiers and families are human beings and should be treated as such.”
Stefanski said the work hours situation has since been resolved, but that the uncertainty and delays regarding her husband's departure have caused undue stress.
A staff member in Harris’ Florida office forwarded Stefanski’s e-mail to the DOD on Aug. 1, said Gerry Fritz, the congresswoman’s communications director.
Fritz said it is standard procedure to look into things for constituents.
“If someone from the district took the time to write us a letter, then the least we can do is try to help,” Fritz wrote Tuesday in an e-mail. He stressed that the query is in its preliminary stages, and that congressional members often query other governmental agencies on behalf of their constituents.
“Our procedure here is to make an official inquiry and find out about the situation,” Fritz said this week. “Whether we take any action, it depends on what we think we can do.”
Fritz said such requests normally take about four to six weeks to elicit a DOD response.
Maj. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the 1st Armored Division, would not confirm that a congressional query was made about the brigade in connection with Stefanski’s letter. The brigade is currently under 1st AD command. Citing The Privacy Act of 1974 and Army Regulation 1-20, Marotto said such information is not publicly available.
When asked about the erratic deployment schedule and the concerns of family members, Marotto said the situation in Iraq is fluid, and that combat needs change.
Stefanski said she was glad her letter had prompted a response.
“It’s great,” she said, adding that she hopes someone responsible will explain why things have been this way, and that the hammer doesn’t fall on someone who was just following orders. “I don’t want it to put the wrong people under pressure.”