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Face of Defense: Iraq Deployment is All in the Family

By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Mills, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq, Nov. 20, 2007 – Nearly every time Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Pruitt flies his Apache in Iraq, his brother, Army Capt. Joseph Pruitt, knows exactly what’s happening to him, good or bad.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
(Left to right) Capt. Alicia Pruitt; her husband, Capt. Joseph Pruitt; his brother, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Pruitt; and his wife, Capt. Kristi Pruitt, pose for a photo at Camp Striker, Baghdad. U.S. Army photo
  

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

Both brothers’ wives, in turn, also have a finger on the safety and wellbeing of their husbands and brothers-in-law.

The four Pruitts -- Michael, a pilot with 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment; Joseph, battle captain, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division; and their wives, Capt. Kristi Pruitt, support operations officer, 603rd Aviation Support Battalion, and Capt. Alicia Pruitt, personnel officer, 4th Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment -- are stationed here together with the 3rd CAB, a situation that brings both benefits and a decided downside.

“It’s very cool to be here together,” said Kristi, Michael’s wife. “But it also has a separate sacrifice.”

With most close family relationships, there is a separation during deployment. Spouses and siblings are most often at home, far away from the day-to-day dangers of deployment to a war zone. The Pruitts don’t experience that separation, said Kristi, who hails from Oviedo, Fla.

Joseph, from Peachtree City, Ga., works in the 3rd CAB tactical operations center as the battle captain, a position which gives him a front-row seat to everything happening in the 3rd CAB’s operating environment.

“I know when (Michael) is flying,” said Joseph, admitting that he sometimes worries about his brother. “But if (Alicia) flies, I do the same thing.”

At the same time, Joseph said, he realizes they are soldiers and there isn’t room for compromising the mission by worrying too much.

“If something were to happen, I don’t think it would hit until after the battle drill,” Joseph said.

On the flipside is the fact that the Pruitts work in different battalions and are on different schedules, explained Michael, also a native of Peachtree, Ga. It’s good to be able to see each other, he said, but it is sometimes difficult not being able to spend quality time with each other.

While all four Pruitts acknowledge they are able to spend more time together than many other soldiers and their families, it’s almost like being teased with their close presence and not able to fully experience it.

“We don’t see each other really very much,” Michael said. “We see each other maybe once a week.”

The other issue this raises, said Alicia, a native of Fort Kent, Maine, is that soldiering becomes your life. That translates to having no pets, having to rent out your house during deployments, and having no kids.

“We can’t just decide to have babies,” she said. “We have to work around the Army’s schedule.”

Coming together in one brigade in Iraq wasn’t exactly planned, the Pruitts said. Joseph and Alicia met early on in their careers.

“We kind of ran into each other in (officer basic course), but we really didn’t start dating until Korea,” Joseph said.

Joseph and Alicia were married before moving to the 3rd Infantry Division, where they said they found a pair of slots open; those positions happened to be with the 3rd CAB, where Michael had also moved.

Michael and Kristi subsequently met during a deployment to Iraq in 2005 when they were both with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, of the 3rd CAB. In early 2007 the 3rd CAB was given the word to deploy to Iraq again in May, but they would leave 3-3 Aviation behind, Kristi said. At that time Kristi and Michael were dating, and to keep from being moved to other posts elsewhere in the world, and probably being separated, they decided to transfer to the battalions that were deploying.

Kristi said they weren’t engaged at that point, so their planning was tentative at first.

“I was the one who brought it up initially, and (Michael) had heard of a job opening up in 1-3 and said, ‘OK, I’ll volunteer, too,’” Kristi said. “So I guess it was to stay together.”

They married by proxy wedding through the state of Montana during this most recent deployment.

“I love the way it is now,” Kristi said. “When (Michael) vents to me I know exactly what he’s talking about. I know not to overreact, and he’s really good about doing the same thing. It’s like we speak the same language, you know, the whole military language thing.”

The bond they share, say the Pruitts, goes beyond the bond among soldiers. It has deep roots in family and the love they feel for each other.

“I look up to them,” Alicia said of her family in Iraq. “I only worry when they worry. It’s comforting that they are here.”

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Mills is assigned to 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.)

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