With a dozen soldiers killed in Iraq this deployment, it’s been a tough nine months since Baumholder troops left for Kuwait last November, then to Iraq in May.

With a dozen soldiers killed in Iraq this deployment, it’s been a tough nine months since Baumholder troops left for Kuwait last November, then to Iraq in May. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For some, living in Baumholder is not so different from living in the States.

But for others, being in a foreign country while their spouses are at war is too much to take.

“If I had it to do over … if I knew before the deployment what I know now, I’d have gone back to the States in a second,” said Amanda Garcia.

She is far from alone.

Some 80 families have gone back to the States under the Early Return of Dependents program, according to 1st Armored Division officials. These are families who chose to return to the States instead of waiting to move back in a normal timeframe.

Kristin DeLuca, for example, left Baumholder just after the November 2005 deployment to a suburb of Austin, Texas.

“I couldn’t endure another German winter,” said DeLuca.

Other spouses who left told Stars and Stripes they needed close friends and family nearby.

For those who stayed in Germany, however, successfully coping with the deployment depends on a number of factors. Medical experts say it comes down to whom you are, how responsive your Family Readiness Group is, and how lucky you’ve been in meeting the right people.

Those who don’t cope retreat inwardly, becoming more and more depressed.

In her memorial eulogies and in an interview, Maj. Jeanine White, the 2nd Brigade rear detachment commander, stresses the sense of community in Baumholder. In bleak times, she said, “being together is the most precious gift we can give one another.”

Leslie Pineto, newly arrived in Baumholder, says she sees more support here. “My FRG calls me once a week and says, “Are you doing okay?’”

If FRG leaders and rear deployment personnel “worked as hard as the soldiers in the field, there would be no problems,” said one spouse.

But FRGs are a two-way street and participation is not mandatory, said Alison Errington, an FRG leader for Battery C, 4th Battlion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, based at Strassburg Kaserne in Idar-Oberstein.

In a volunteer position, “we’re doing the best we can,” Errington said, working hard to track all the soldiers and families coming into units. To those who want to participate, she sends out a weekly e-mail newsletter with as much information as she can, including updates about what soldiers are doing in Iraq, new-baby announcements and community activities and Army Community Service classes, Errington said. Of the 65 spouses in her battery, 45 are in Germany. A typical turnout for meetings is 15 people, she said.

For Jennifer Sewell — whose husband is not deployed but has spent more than 100 days in the field this year — military life comes down to, “Do you want to cope with things?”

“Do you want to cope with life?,” she asked. “Or do you want to sit around your apartment and be miserable?”

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