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European edition, Sunday, July 8, 2007

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Some 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment families say they would not have followed their soldiers to Germany if they knew they would be alone in a foreign country for 15 months and they would have to wait so long for permanent quarters.

The regiment, which arrived in Vilseck last summer, is due to deploy to Iraq in August. Last week, officials revealed that more than 300 families are waiting for permanent housing in Vilseck and nearby Grafenwöhr.

Second Cav spouse Shannon Chelossi wrote in an e-mail last week that the Army should have told families about the housing shortages and the possibility of deployment before they came to Germany.

“Had the Army been truthful with this brigade, its soldiers and their families, most of the spouses and children would not have accompanied their soldier to Germany,” she said.

Chelossi said there would be no housing shortage in the area if families had stayed in the States.

“The problem housing would have is the exact opposite of a housing shortage. Vilseck and [Grafenwöhr] would be ghost towns had the soldiers and we families been told the truth about this tour in Germany,” she said.

Many spouses want to return to the States when the soldiers deploy, something that would open up a large amount of housing for families on waiting lists, she said.

“The Army isn’t willing to accommodate any of these families who want to move back to the States, except for ‘special considerations.’ Essentially, these families are stuck in quarters they would gladly give up to move back to the States, while families who do want to stay here in Germany for this deployment are living in a hotel and out of suitcases because of a housing shortage,” Chelossi said.

When asked about the issue last week, Army public affairs officials said they would respond to questions on the deployment and housing issues this week.

Carol Moreno, whose husband, Sgt. Daniel Moreno is preparing to deploy with the 2nd Cav, will move into a house in Germany on Monday, but she said families should have been told about the possible deployment before they followed soldiers to Europe.

“They should have told those families so they had a choice (whether to come overseas),” she said.

“They were told (of the deployment) two months after getting here, and they’ll still be in temporary housing,” Moreno said. “It’s kind of scary that you don’t have your husband to help out with settling in. So I feel for them.”

Not all the 2nd Cav families want to head back to the United States. Fabiola Burns, whose husband, Sgt. Justin Burns, also is scheduled to deploy with the 2nd Cav, said she wants to stay in Germany while her husband is downrange.

But her family faces a much longer wait for permanent housing than the average of two to three months claimed by the Army, she said.

The family, including their 11-month-old child, arrived in Germany on May 9, and has temporary housing in Vilseck. She said they have been told they will not get permanent housing until November, long after Justin Burns deploys.

In the meantime, they are living out of duffel bags, unable to access their household goods until they get permanent housing, Fabiola Burns said.

On top of that, the young mother said she must return to the States for 90 days starting in October to complete citizenship requirements or face deportation to her native Mexico.

She said the Army has not lived up to what the family was told before they moved to Germany.

“We are here on concurrent travel. We were told not to pack anything and just travel with our suitcases because when we got to Germany we would get our house,” she said.

She says the Morenos got a house because they complained to Stars and Stripes, but that others are still in a bad situation.

“I’ve been ignored so far. It seems like you have to embarrass [the Army] in order for them to listen to you,” she said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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