Transformation forces quick moves on dependents of Europe-based soldiers
August 7, 2005
WüRZBURG, Germany — Debby Pedroza has a busy August ahead of her.
Late last month soldiers in her husband’s unit, Company A of the 121st Signal Battalion, learned they would move 35 miles from Kitzingen to Schweinfurt by Sept. 30 in one tiny slice of the Army’s massive transformation program.
Pedroza has five children ages 2 to 11, four of them in school.
Her husband is in the United States in the basic noncommissioned officer course and won’t return for two months. She wants the kids moved to Schweinfurt before school starts early next month, so she’ll be doing it alone.
Pedroza is wearing a brave smile.
“You do what you’ve got to do,” she said.
There will be lots more brave smiles in the years to come as more military units merge, disappear or move to meet the Pentagon’s transformation needs.
On July 29, U.S. Army Europe announced that about 18,000 soldiers and family members from Kitzingen, Würzburg and Giebelstadt would be moving as part of the 1st Infantry Division’s restructuring and relocation to Fort Riley, Kan.
While many 1st ID soldiers will have until next summer to prepare for their moves, those from two units — Company A of the 121st Signal, and Company C of the 101st Military Intelligence Battalion, based in Würzburg — must move right now. The rest of the two battalions will inactivate next year.
Both companies are being attached to the 1st ID’s Schweinfurt-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which has lost more than half of its soldiers since the division returned from Iraq in the spring. The two companies worked with the team during last year’s deployment, and now they will be permanently attached.
Lt. Col. Mike Lewis, commander of the 101st Military Intelligence, said most of the 62 troops in Company C are single. The company offices and single soldiers will move to Schweinfurt’s Conn Barracks next month. Because the unit’s home base, Leighton Barracks, isn’t scheduled to close soon, soldiers with families aren’t being required to move.
“The Army’s doing its best to accommodate their individual needs,” he said.
The 121st Signal families aren’t so lucky. Because the Marshall Heights housing area where they live is scheduled to close next year, about 90 soldiers with families must move this fall, said Capt. Sean Bratton, the company commander.
“I wish [we were] informed earlier,” said Diane Guerrero, whose husband serves in Company A. “If we’d have known before school got out, we could have spent the summer preparing.”
“The families in some cases think we’re ramming this down their throats,” said Lt. Col. Jim Garrison, the battalion commander. “The transformation happened fast, and for the families it was really fast.”
Bratton said families with children will get first chance to move so they can resettle before school starts Aug. 29. Families with compelling reasons to stay in Kitzingen will be allowed to do so.
“We’re trying to make the transition as painless as possible,” he said.
Soldiers and families have met twice with leaders of the Schweinfurt-based 280th Base Support Battalion.
“They told us there’s plenty of housing,” said Sgt. Patrick Davis, 26, who will be moving with his wife and three children. “I don’t mind [moving]. Schweinfurt’s got everything we need.”
Garrison said he hopes his unit will be moved to Conn by the end of September. But his timetable is tight, because USAREUR’s “unit move order” has not worked its way down to the unit yet. Without it, soldiers can’t start moving their families.
“The stress level is high because of the time limitations,” said Staff Sgt. Marlin White, 46, who wants to move his wife, Yolanda, and four children as soon as possible. “We don’t know how it’s going to go, but we’re flexible.”