Thursday, April 29, 2004

Army families whose soldiers were recently extended for another four months in Iraq will be allowed to move back to the United States without the servicemember, according to a new Army policy issued Tuesday.

According to the policy, any family that was originally scheduled to rotate back to the United States between May 1 and Sept. 31, but whose soldier’s tour in Iraq has been delayed, is authorized to return before the servicemember comes back from deployment.

Army officials said the new policy is specifically designed to ease the burden on families of the Germany-based 1st Armored Division, which makes up the bulk of the 14,250 active-duty soldiers whose Iraq tours were officially extended by Pentagon officials on April 19...

During a town hall meeting in Baumholder, Germany, last Friday, 1st AD spouses told Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of Army forces in Europe, that the extension will force many children to miss the start of classes in their new U.S.-based schools.

Bell promised that families in this position would be allowed to make the move back to the United States before their husbands redeployed.

“We’re just going to make that happen,” Bell said.

The new policy “is something that USAREUR [U.S. Army Europe] requested,” acknowledged Lt. Col. Stan Heath, an Army personnel spokesman in Washington.

“It’s never been done before, to my knowledge,” Heath said. “But we have families with school-age children, and we want to give them full latitude in their decisions” about whether or not to come back to the United States in advance of their soldier’s return.

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