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Company B, 94th Engineer Battalion soldier Pfc. George White, 21, of Augusta, Ga., enjoyed a feast Wednesday at Vilseck Castle with his wife Lakeisha, 22, and son Xzavius, 2. The party was a welcome back and a farewell for the 94th, which is returning to the U.S. in June. The 94th and 18th Combat Support battalions returned from Iraq in January.
Company B, 94th Engineer Battalion soldier Pfc. George White, 21, of Augusta, Ga., enjoyed a feast Wednesday at Vilseck Castle with his wife Lakeisha, 22, and son Xzavius, 2. The party was a welcome back and a farewell for the 94th, which is returning to the U.S. in June. The 94th and 18th Combat Support battalions returned from Iraq in January. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Company B, 94th Engineer Battalion soldier Pfc. George White, 21, of Augusta, Ga., enjoyed a feast Wednesday at Vilseck Castle with his wife Lakeisha, 22, and son Xzavius, 2. The party was a welcome back and a farewell for the 94th, which is returning to the U.S. in June. The 94th and 18th Combat Support battalions returned from Iraq in January.
Company B, 94th Engineer Battalion soldier Pfc. George White, 21, of Augusta, Ga., enjoyed a feast Wednesday at Vilseck Castle with his wife Lakeisha, 22, and son Xzavius, 2. The party was a welcome back and a farewell for the 94th, which is returning to the U.S. in June. The 94th and 18th Combat Support battalions returned from Iraq in January. (Seth Robson / S&S)
Vilseck mayor Hans-Martin Schertl toasts soldiers from the 94th Engineer and 18th Combat Support battalions.
Vilseck mayor Hans-Martin Schertl toasts soldiers from the 94th Engineer and 18th Combat Support battalions. (Seth Robson / S&S)

VILSECK, Germany — The arrival of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment here this summer will bring life and business back to a community that has been empty since the departure of several other locally based units for Iraq last year, Vilseck Mayor Hans-Martin Schertl said Wednesday.

Schertl spoke at a dinner at Vilseck Castle to welcome soldiers from the 94th Engineer and 18th Combat Support battalions back from Iraq. The units returned from yearlong missions to the desert in January and February and the 94th is due to return to the U.S. in June.

“Vilseck has had good relations with the American community for a long time. Soldiers on the street is a scene that people know,” said Schertl.

After 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, the 18th and the 94th went to Iraq last year, Vilseck felt empty, he added.

“The German-American life was missing and the shops missed business. The middle of the town used to have people standing around talking. It is not just business — it is the community life,” he said.

About 6,500 Germans live in Vilseck next door to a U.S. community that, when it was full, included 8,000 to 9,000 soldiers, family members and civilians. The Vilseck military community has been a lot smaller, with the units in Iraq, but numbers are set to swell again over the summer when the Strykers arrive along with thousands of soldiers and family members.

“It is very important for us now when 3rd Brigade [which will return to the U.S. after its Iraq tour ends] and all the other units are leaving that soldiers come back to Vilseck. We want to bring life and business. We are hoping life will start again,” Schertl said.

About 800 Germans from Vilseck work on post there and others commute to nearby Grafenwöhr to work with the U.S. Army. The bases at Vilseck, Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels, an hour’s drive south, employ about 3,000 Germans from nearby communities, Schertl said.

Expansion of Grafenwöhr to house an extra brigade-size element of soldiers will empower the entire region, he said.

“There are no other large industries in the area. And it is not just people employed with the Army. It is all the contractors working for the Army – people doing construction work at Grafenwöhr to house the new soldiers, for example,” he said.

The 94th and 18th soldiers and family members were treated to a German feast and beer at the castle.

Company B, 94th Engineer Battalion soldier Pfc. George White, 21, of Augusta, Ga., who was there with his wife, Lakeisha, 22, and son, Xzavius, 2, said it was the first time he’d been inside a castle after 1½ years in Germany.

“I have seen a couple, but I hadn’t been in one. It’s not as medieval as I expected,” said White, who is headed back to the U.S. in June. He will take with him a love of German beer and sausages.

“I’ve had a lot more sausage than I was used to,” he said.

Another Company B soldier at the castle, Sgt. Carlester Harris, 39, of Mount Vernon, N.Y., said he came to Germany in 2002 but went on two tours to Iraq and had only spent about 10 months in Europe.

“Now I’m back I’m just enjoying Germany,” said Harris, who has re-enlisted to stay here with the 54th Engineer Battalion in Hanau.

Schertl told the soldiers that the community was proud of them and urged them to return to Vilseck to visit.

“When the Strykers arrive in Vilseck, we will welcome them because we want to start the new friendship off well,” said Schertl, who met with an advance team of 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (soon to reflag as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment) soldiers last month to discuss their arrival.

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