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Face of Defense: Couple Deploys, Re-enlists Together

By Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Moreno
U.S. Division Center

BAGHDAD, Nov. 3, 2010 – “Go big or go home” is what Army Sgt. Ashleigh Berg told her husband, Army Sgt. Matthew Berg, when they decided to re-enlist here for four more years Oct. 21.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Matthew Berg and his wife, Army Sgt. Ashleigh Berg, re-enlist Oct. 21, 2010, in Baghdad. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brandon Moreno
  

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

Ashleigh, noncommissioned officer in charge of the secretary of general staff for 1st Armored Division, U.S. Division Center, and a Malibu, Calif., native, and Matthew, a vehicle maintenance noncommissioned officer with the headquarters motor pool with 1st Armored Division, and a Mobile, Ala., native, have been married for more than five years and have many experiences most civilian couples do not share.

“We met at Camp Red Cloud [in South Korea] while doing gate guard duty,” Matthew said. “During our duty, we had a good chat, and after that I started showing her around Korea.”

“In a way, he almost became my sponsor, as he showed me around the different parts of Seoul,” Ashleigh said while looking over at her husband with a smile.

After spending time with each other and traveling together, the Bergs’ relationship developed and they eventually became engaged to be married. The couple took advantage of the unique opportunity to get married in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Ashleigh said. “I mean, there are not many people I know who have a wedding certificate in Hangul,” the alphabet of the Korean language.

As both soldiers neared the ends of their terms of service, they decided to re-enlist for the first time, and were stationed in Germany.

“Germany was great,” Matthew said. “We kept traveling and got to see most of the country, and even some other countries like Austria. We even took advantage of the [Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany], which was a lot of fun.”

In their third year of marriage, Ashleigh found herself packing her bags and kissing her husband goodbye for a deployment to Iraq, but the two set up solutions to keep communication flowing while she was away.

“Before I left Iraq, we made sure we had both purchased webcams and had Skype downloaded onto our computers,” Ashleigh said. “We also kept open lines of communication between each other leading up to the deployment so, in a way, we had both mentally prepared ourselves for this.”

However, the couple was apart for only months before Matthew was informed he would be joining his wife in Iraq with 1st Armored Division.

“The transition of having him come in was actually an easy one,” Ashleigh said with a small laugh. “About two days before he came to join me, my roommate at the time had moved out, so he was able to literally just move right in.”

Ashleigh and Matthew said not much has changed between their first deployment to Iraq together and their current one, but it is not always easy — and at the end of the day, it’s the little things that count.

“From the last deployment to this one, we never really worked too far from each other,” Ashleigh said.

Matthew said Ashleigh can sometimes work very late, and while she is nearby, he may go the whole day without seeing her. However, he is glad to see her at the end of the day, as opposed to being separated by thousands of miles.

“Coming out here today was awesome,” Ashleigh said about the opportunity to re-enlist in front of the crossed sabers that mark the ends of what used to be Saddam Hussein’s military parade grounds. “I had the chance today to get out and see a real part of Iraq.”

Matthew said the day was exciting — his second time in a helicopter — and that he felt fortunate see a little bit of what Baghdad actually looks like, while some people go a whole deployment seeing nothing but dirt and concrete blast walls.

Deployments are not easy, and the added stressors of a relationship can be an extra challenge to manage, but Ashleigh and Matthew agree that whether pulling guard duty, traveling or re-enlisting, they are truly in step with each other. And on a deployment, they said, that can make all the difference in the world.

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