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Irwin native among military personnel kept waiting for return of personal vehicle

| Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Capt. Jason Smith’s Ford Ranger pickup was supposed to be delivered from England to San Antonio, where he is stationed. The truck is overdue.
Capt. Jason Smith’s Ford Ranger pickup truck that was supposed to be delivered from England to San Antonio where he is stationed. The truck, like hundred to be delivered by contractor International Auto Logistics, is overdue.

The military says it has begun auditing the process by which vehicles are delivered to overseas personnel who are coming home.

Media reports put the number of complaints about missing cars or delayed shipments to the United States at 250 between May and late July.

Maj. Gregory R. Matthews of U.S. Transportation Command wrote in an email to the Tribune-Review that the military is “disappointed” by the problems.

“We are in the military, too, and understand the impact of delays — we view each delay as though it were our own vehicle,” he said.

The family of Air Force Capt. Jason Smith, 39, an Irwin native who has served two tours in Afghanistan, said they are among those who don't know where their vehicles are. Smith's wife, Margarita, 38, said he dropped off his 2011 Ford Ranger pickup on June 20 in Brandon, England. It was due to arrive in Dallas on Aug. 8.

The Smiths, who have two children, Hannah, 9, and Alexander, 5, are living in a hotel in Texas while he is stationed at an Air Force base near San Antonio.

“We can rent a car and pray for reimbursement, but a young enlisted family might not have the money up front or credit to rent on the hopes IAL will reimburse them later,” Margarita Smith wrote in an email.

IAL is International Auto Logistics of Brunswick, Ga., the contractor that won a $304.6 million contract — the low bid — in October to deliver vehicles. An IAL spokeswoman said the company has been in contact with Smith multiple times and updated him on the status of his truck.

“IAL has not lost any vehicles, and every customer is compensated for any rental car fees incurred,” spokeswoman Amanda Nunez said.

The Smiths said they had vehicles delivered three times before with no problem.

“Not having a vehicle might seem trivial, but we had calculated plans — plans that involved my husband being able to get to work without me waking up the kids; plans on not paying delivery for things we need as we set up our new lives back on American soil; plans to drive a vehicle that we are making payments on,” Margarita Smith said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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