By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes

GRAFENWOHR, Germany - The first of 3,100 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment and another 5,500 family members will arrive in Vilseck next month, the Army has announced.

The Stryker brigade, which the Army previously said would arrive some time over summer, is preparing to leave its base at Fort Lewis, Wash., with the advance party touching down in Germany in the second week of May, 2nd Cav public affairs officer Maj. Jon Pendell said Wednesday.

“I can’t remember the last time the Army moved this number of soldiers overseas with family members, if it has been done at all”, the 37-year-old San Francisco native said.

The 2nd Cav soldiers and family members will continue to arrive in waves until the entire unit is at Vilseck by the end of September, he said. The brigade, which will officially reflag from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment during a ceremony at Fort Lewis on June 2, will move 1,500 pieces of equipment to Europe including its eight-wheeled Stryker armored personnel carriers, Humvees and Light Medium Tactical Vehicles, Pendell said.

The vehicles will leave Washington in late June and will be shipped to a port in northern Germany, then convoyed to Vilseck, he said.

“By the end of August we should have most of our brigade there [and] we are looking at getting back into our field training by October,” he said.

The brigade has had a hectic six months after returning from Iraq in late September, then repairing its vehicles and changing out personnel before starting the enormous task of moving all its soldiers and family members to Europe, he said.

Challenges involved in the move ranged from sorting out family members’ paperwork and passports to assigning houses to families in Germany, something that already had been done. But soldiers from the brigade are excited about the move, Pendell said.

“It is almost the pinnacle of our careers because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

Vilseck, which is surrounded by green farmland and pine forest about an hour’s drive from the large Bavarian city of Nuernberg, has a lot in common with Fort Lewis, added Pendell, who trained at nearby Grafenwohr on two previous tours to Europe.

Nick D’Amario, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwohr, which encompasses Vilseck, said the garrison recently created a Web site to help 2nd Cav soldiers with the move.

The site, which can be accessed by clicking on the “Stryker Reception” link at www.grafenwoehr.army.mil, includes information on housing, health, employment, education, family services and the community at Vilseck.

It also allows 2nd Cav soldiers to e-mail the garrison with questions about their new duty station, D’Amario said.

So far soldiers have e-mailed with questions about local safety rules, school enrollment and the exceptional family members program, for family members with special needs, he said.

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