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GIESSEN, Germany — Hundreds of family members gathered Friday in Giessen to hear what Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling, a 1st Armored Division assistant division commander, had to say about the unit’s extension in Iraq.

Some spouses came away from the meeting with a sense of relief, while others were frustrated that their questions weren’t answered.

The meeting, and Friday’s earlier sessions in Hanau and Friedberg, were called in response to Thursday’s announcement that 1st AD soldiers would be extended past their one-year deployment date. Many soldiers were expected to return in May.

Hertling addressed the roughly 300 family members and then opened the meeting to questions from the audience. Col. George Latham, commander of the 104th Area Support Group, also responded to questions.

“I told them what was happening in three areas — what was happening in Iraq, what was happening with their soldiers in terms of morale and mood, and dependent issues,” Hertling told Stars and Stripes after the meeting. The meeting was closed to the media.

Some spouses, who had left the meeting early, said the information presented wasn’t helpful. They declined to identify their husbands and the units they belonged to.

“It was just the same old thing,” said one spouse, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions to her husband. “They said that the morale is good. What morale?”

She and several women had gathered in the parking lot of the Alpine Club, where the meeting was still in progress.

Other women were concerned about the morale of the soldiers, what effect the extension has on stop loss and stop movement and their school-age children.

Raquel Koch was concerned about taking children out of classes if the soldiers’ return coincides with the start of school in August.

“My son is 16 and he will be a junior next year,” Koch said. “He has to be [in school]. It’s not like with an elementary school child, where you can just pull them out of school. High-schoolers have to count on credits.”

“I’m concerned that my children will get … their quality time that they deserve to have with their dad,” she added.

After the meeting, Jennifer Cornish said she was relieved.

“Any question I had was answered,” Cornish said. “Most of them were answered by what he [Hertling] said before the questions even started.”

Koch agreed.

“Basically, it was the same. … ‘They’re not coming home,’ ” Koch said, ‘but a lot more questions were asked and a lot more answers given. I think, for the most part, [Hertling] was able to help us.”


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