Sailor awaits travel amid coronavirus restrictions

Story By Rebecca Castellano, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Video and Imagery by Paul Hughes, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

Böblingen, Germany – After Petty Officer 1st Class Le’Joine Gardner shipped her household goods March 9, the U.S. Navy yeoman checked into U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Panzer Hotel for a 10-day stay. 

Nearly two lingering months later, due to coronavirus restrictions, Gardner doesn’t know when she can depart. Her next duty station is San Francisco. Like many service members worldwide facing the Department of Defense’s stop movement order, Gardner is facing this challenge as best as she can.  

“I’ve been living out of two suitcases,” Gardner said. “It’s very lonely.”

Facing an unprecedented backup of movement orders is a new challenge, said Chris Morris, Director of Hotel Services for USAG Stuttgart’s directorate of Family, Morale Welfare and Recreation.

“We had to sort through roughly 4,000 reservations and figure out who was still coming, who we could cancel and then figure out a system to accept new reservations because our priority has to be to our current guests,” Morris said. “We’re letting people go day-by-day on their reservations because we understand that they don’t know when they’re going to be able to leave.”

The hotel team is doing everything they can to make their guests feel welcome and safe, Morris said.

“We’ve increased our cleaning schedule and are working around the clock to ensure everyone’s safety,” Morris said.

The garrison hotel staff’s kind and welcoming attitude has made Gardner’s stay a little easier. She also implemented some new steps in her routine in an effort to be more positive. 

 “When I go to bed, I think about everything that I can’t control,” said Gardner. “So, I turn on cartoons because they help put me in a better mood before I lay down. Then I wake up in a better mood and I think about how can I keep this positive energy going? What can I do to take that next step forward?”

To keep her spirits up, Gardner talks to her family in Georgia daily, but said it is difficult to answer their questions. 

“They want to know when I’m coming home and I can’t tell them,” said Gardner. “They want to make sure they get to see me before I have to report to my next command and I don’t know. 

Gardner’s biggest challenge – uncertainty. 

“There are no procedures in place for this situation. It’s new for everyone,” said Gardner ,who is used to receiving prompt Navy directions. “In this situation, there are no answers, no one knows what to do.”

Gardner, a Navy administrative specialist, is heading toward recruiting in California. She’s hoping the assignment will advance her career. This job may also be her lucky ticket. 

““Recruiting duty is one of the exceptions to the policy for stop movement so I’m trying to route that,” Gardner said. “We’ll see where that guides me.”