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Iraq Duty a Family Affair for Army Reserve Couple

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

BALAD, Iraq, July 29, 2005 – Bernd and Virginia Zoller are two full-time Army Reserve officers with a lot in common, pulling military duty in an uncommon place.

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Married Army Reserve Lt. Cols. Bernd and Virginia Zoller both serve as public affairs officers at Balad, Iraq, located about 50 miles north of Baghdad. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

First off, the Zollers share the same rank -- lieutenant colonel -- and both are public affairs officers.

"We were promoted together here on Dec. 24 in this room," Lt. Col. Virginia Zoller said during a July 27 interview with American Forces Press Service here.

And the pair has the same last name, because they're a couple. The Zollers will celebrate their first year of marriage Aug. 29.

Virginia, 42, acknowledged she and her husband "are two of the luckiest" soldiers in the Army, having been assigned here together, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, for nearly 10 months now. She is the public affairs officer for the Logistics Support Area Anaconda and 1st Corps Support Command.

Lt. Col. Bernd Zoller, 41, is a 19-year Army veteran who serves as the Anaconda garrison command's public affairs officer.

Both officers also have a shared love of the Army.

"They take care of you," Bernd Zoller pointed out, noting the Army's comprehensive medical and dental benefits.

"I'm never bored," Virginia Zoller chimed in. Her Army career has been exciting and personally rewarding, she explained, because "the jobs change all the time, the people you work with change all the time," and the Army provides the opportunity to travel.

The Army is working with married couples, Virginia Zoller said, in efforts to provide joint assignments for married partners and more stabilized duty tours. Many private corporations, she maintained, "don't care" about married couples.

The Zollers said this tour marks the first time they've served in Iraq, noting their shared experience in Balad has been very rewarding. "The Corps Support Command does all the logistical support throughout Iraq and in Kuwait," Virginia Zoller explained, also noting COSCOM takes the lead for conducting training for Iraqi truck drivers.

Bernd Zoller says he gets a warm feeling whenever he's visiting with local Iraqis. "They're happy to see you," he said. "It's good to see that we're making a difference."

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