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Dual Military Couples Share Deployment

By Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2005 – When Army 1st Lt. Mandy Nalls learned her husband, 1st Lt. Bill Nalls, would deploy to Iraq yet again, the newlyweds thought they would have to postpone their honeymoon. Instead they decided to celebrate their marriage in an unlikely vacation destination: Baghdad.

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Army 1st Lt. Mandy Nalls and her husband, 1st Lt. Bill Nalls, both with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, spend quality time at a dining facility in Baghdad, Iraq. The Nalls are one of several couples fortunate enough to share this deployment. Photo by Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin, USA

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

The Nalls are one of several couples deployed together with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Like all couples, they share they joys and pains of deployment -- only they do it together.

"The worst part of a deployment is leaving your family," said Bill Nalls, originally from Knoxville, Tenn. "If I get to take my family with me, it is the best of both worlds."

The Nalls were separated by deployment before when Bill deployed to Afghanistan. Mandy Nalls knew she would deploy eventually as well, and they both desired to stay on the same deployment rotation.

Deploying together was not as easy as simply volunteering, however. They had to convince the brigade to create a slot for Mandy, a chemical officer originally from West Bath, Maine. They stated their case to Lt. Col. Michael J. Infanti, 2nd BCT deputy commander. Infanti sympathized with the couple and found a spot for Mandy as an assistant in the brigade personnel shop.

"We try to keep couples together when possible," Infanti said. "They wanted to volunteer and we needed soldiers. It made sense to keep them together."

The Nalls are not the only couple that Infanti kept together on this deployment. Capt. Phil Radzikowski, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, and his wife, Capt. Josee Radzikowski, Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT, had the same situation as the Nalls. Infanti said he was happy to take Josee, an engineer officer and native of Northampton, Mass., to Iraq as the brigade maintenance officer.

Unlike the Nalls and Radzikowskis, Staff Sgt. Christopher Webb and his wife, Sgt. Amanda Webb, both of D Company, 110th Military Intelligence Battalion, didn't have to worry about a lack of slots. Their only concern was whether to stay at home and eventually be deployed separately or to pull back-to-back deployments together. Christopher was home for around 90 days and Amanda for less than 40 days when they volunteered to deploy again.

"I was still used to being deployed when I left again," said Amanda, a Bethel, Alaska, native.

"Our sergeant major point blank told us that he can't guarantee we stay together (if not deployed)," said Christopher, a Colorado Springs, Co., native. "One way to guarantee that we stay together is to go back to Iraq."

All three couples said having their spouse deployed with them is a very welcome substitute to deployments apart.

The Nalls, like many deployed spouses with 2nd BCT, share a one-room trailer together that creates a cozy, at-home feeling, they said. The Webbs shared living quarters until Christopher was tasked to provide intelligence support for 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Justice, a smaller base near Camp Liberty. The comforts of a one-room trailer provided a small piece of home to the couple, both said.

"We would go to eat, watch movies," Christopher said. "It's not dissimilar to what we did at home."

The Nalls also feel at home in their living quarters. Some things are even too much like home, Mandy said. "I get to do the laundry, the dishes, mop the floor," she said smiling. "It's like our apartment back home. Nothing's changed."

"I have no complaints," Bill added and turned to his wife with a smile.

The Nalls see each other almost daily. They eat meals, work out and spend any free time together. Shared living quarters are not an option for all married Soldiers, however. The Webbs and Radzikowskis are less fortunate, but still cherish the time they get to spend together. Phil Radzikowski and Christopher Webb work out of Forward Operating Base Justice, near Camp Liberty. Both try to spend time with their wives when they make trips back. This can make any work-related trip cause for snickers from other soldiers, Phil said.

"No matter what I have to do, when I come back to Camp Liberty, it is for one reason only in their mind," the Bethesda, Md., native said.

Separating family life from the professional work environment is one of several issues that make deploying to Iraq with a spouse no honeymoon. Friendly taunting from coworkers aside, all three couples said they struggle to balance family life with the rigors of deployment.

"Lots of people think 'Oh, if I can have my wife over here it would be great,'" Josee Radzikowski said. "But we work long hours. I understand he has to work; he understands I have to work. I would obviously prefer it this way. That's why I volunteered."

Just as war doesn't stop for relationships, everyday arguments between spouses don't stop for war. "We still have the normal married couple squabbles," she said.

"The bickering and bantering doesn't change when you're deployed," Phil said, sheepishly smiling at his own reflections of past arguments. "It's mostly me. I'm the bigger bickerer."

Married couples who deploy together don't leave their spouses behind, but they also don't leave behind their concern for a deployed loved one either. Knowing what your spouse is doing and where they are is a double-edged sword, both reassuring and nerve- wracking at times, all three couples said.

"At least we know the real deal," Phil Radzikowski said. "We know it's not what you see on TV."

Deployed spouses don't have to worry about what their significant other is doing back home, but rather if they are in danger on the front, Phil said.

"It's a different kind of concern," he said. "I worry, but anyone who cares about someone will worry."

Despite any problems deployments may bring, all the couples agreed they would rather have it this way.

"It was worth it," Mandy Nalls said. "We get to live our lives together. It's someone you know you can talk to and count on to be there all the time. It was hard when he was in Afghanistan. Having done both, I would rather be deployed with him."

"It certainly kept the marriage from being boring," Josee Radzikowski said.

(Army Pfc. Matthew McLaughlin is assigned to the 10th Mountain Division.)

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