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SCHWEINFURT, Germany — They just got back from Iraq, and now they’re being evicted from their homes.

Seventeen infantrymen from Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment who returned from Ramadi, Iraq, in November have been living in barracks normally occupied by soldiers who are currently deployed in Afghanistan.

All of the soldiers, who are scheduled to leave Germany next month, said the Army told them they had until Feb. 1 to vacate the barracks.

But they found out Tuesday they had have to move out of the rooms Thursday afternoon, according to Sgt. Joseph Walker, 23.

When they asked why, the single soldiers were told the rooms they have been living in — in which many of them had phone and Internet service installed — need renovations.

According to Walker, their rooms are just fine. In fact, he said, they are better than where they were living before they left for Iraq, with newer furniture and cleaner floors and walls.

“Why now? Why can’t it wait?” Walker asked. “We’ll paint our own rooms. We’ll do the hallways. We only need the rooms for another 20 days. Just to work on the hallways alone would take them 20 days.”

All the affected soldiers are scheduled to rotate back to the States on Feb. 18. The Army had no plan to house the soldiers after Feb. 1.

While not specifically addressing the plight of the 17 soldiers, U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt officials acknowledged there is a problem with overcrowding in the community.

“The Schweinfurt community has a serious housing problem primarily due to replacements arriving to the brigade even before they were re-deploying from Iraq,” according to a statement from the base public affairs office.

Base officials planned to house the soldiers in the barracks until they left. But those buildings “have been identified and funded for flagship money to improve them while the (deployed) soldiers are gone so there was a short window of opportunity to house the (brigade) overflow in these barracks temporarily.”

Those barracks now need to be turned over to the contractor to complete the renovations before the troops deployed in Afghanistan return, the statement said.

“Currently we have more than 1,000 extra Soldiers in the community. But, this is a short-term problem,” according to the statement. “The stop-loss/stop-move lift will see more than 1,600 Soldiers and families move from the Schweinfurt community to their next duty station over the next several weeks.”

The base said all soldiers are being tracked by the brigade senior leadership and all will have a bed and space.

“There are rooms available throughout the Schweinfurt community for every Soldier,” according to the statement. “There will be no tents and no one will go without a hot shower or a hot meal.”

The Company B soldiers said pleas to their leadership — from their platoon sergeant to their company commander — fell on deaf ears.

“We told our commander we were homeless, and he just laughed at us,” Walker said.

When they tried to talk to their platoon sergeant, he didn’t seem to care either, he said.

The 17 soldiers took their case to the judge advocate general’s office to see if there was legal recourse. They were told there was nothing JAG could do and were sent to the inspector general.

When they told the JAG office that IG personnel were nowhere to be found, they were told, “Well, if you find IG, you should let us know where they are.” Apparently, Walker said, IG office personnel vacated Leighton Barracks in Würzburg last week and were supposed to set up shop in Schweinfurt this week.

After finding out they had to leave the barracks early, the soldiers contacted members of Congress, family members and lawyers and got one extra day.

But, after Friday, there’s no plan — aside from being forced to turn in their keys on Monday.

The troops have been looking for buddies who are willing to let them cram three-to-a-room, with perhaps a cot or a mattress on the floor.

Walker and his buddies — most of whom are specialists and sergeants in their early 20s — also contacted military support groups. Mary Ann Phillips from Soldiers’ Angels Germany said they offered to pay for a hotel for the soldiers for a week, along with taxi fare to and from post.

“We appreciate the help, but right now everyone wants to fight,” Walker said.

“None of us are saying, ‘[expletive] the Army.’ We’re all staying in. We all re-enlisted in Iraq. Most of the guys are out in 2012, except three who got stop-lossed, and they deserve to get out if they want to.

“We just want the Army to take care of us until we leave. That’s their responsibility … that’s what we enlisted for,” Walker said.


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