Thursday, April 15, 2010
Brothers Serve Together in Afghanistan
By Air Force 2nd Lt. Mark Lazane
Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team
April 15, 2010 - The "brotherhood" that exists among servicemembers is well known. Members of the military often talk about forming family-like bonds with their teammates while engaging in operations at home and abroad. For two provincial reconstruction team members here, that brotherhood runs deeper than any uniform or exercise. It literally is blood-deep.
Army Spc. Brandon Sitton, a gunner, and his brother, Army Pfc. Joshua Sitton, a driver, both from Graycourt, S.C., are deployed together as members of the security force element for the team's Orgun detachment.
The brothers are deployed from the South Carolina National Guard's 1/178th Field Artillery, B Battery.
"In the Army, everyone's like a brother to you," said Joshua, the younger brother by three years. "In my case, having someone that actually is blood-related serving right next to me is really special."
Brandon joined the South Carolina National Guard in December 2001.
"I always wanted to join the military as a kid, but I tried the college thing first, and it really wasn't for me," he said. "I joined the National Guard, and it's been great for me."
The actions of the elder brother altered the life path of his younger sibling.
"When Brandon got back from one of his deployments to Iraq, he told me all about being in different countries and seeing things not a lot of people get to see in their lifetime," Joshua said. "It sounded great, so that's basically why I joined. Now I get to see lots of cool places and have stories to tell my kids when I'm older."
Joshua joined the South Carolina National Guard in October 2008. Less than two years later, the brothers were off to pre-deployment training together at Fort Stewart, Ga., and later at Camp Atterbury, Ind. They arrived in Afghanistan in late February and were given the assignment to travel to Forward Operating Base Orgun with their teammates.
Upon arrival to Orgun, the Sitton brothers were told they'd be roommates for the duration of their tour. Often, brothers who are together almost every day don't always appreciate the arrangement.
Not the Sitton boys.
"When we're not deployed, we hang out with each other every day anyway," Brandon said. "We live in the same house back home, and we have pretty much the same friends and hobbies. It's kind of neat. We're real close, and not all brothers are. We do everything together, so it's cool to do this together too."
Like a typical older brother, Brandon watches over his little brother to ensure all is well.
"I pay attention and keep track of him -- make sure he's squared away. He's on a good crew though, so I don't worry too much. I know he's being taken care of."
For many parents, having a deployed servicemember can be difficult. The Sitton family has two to worry about at once.
"We are the only kids in our family, so it's difficult for them, but they understand it," said Joshua. "My mom is a very proud, very patriotic person. She says as long as I am serving with my brother, it's a good thing. We can see the same stuff and have the same experiences."
"She's actually more comfortable with both of us here," Brandon said. "I had a choice whether or not to deploy with this unit. My mom said she'd feel better if we were both here together. I was going to come anyway, but I'm glad she agreed with me."
Though Brandon and Joshua maintain a mission-first attitude, the idea of one of them getting hurt is a possibility that they both face when either of them leaves Forward Operating Base Orgun.
"If something were to happen to Joshua while we're here, it would really affect me," said Brandon. "If something was to happen to any of these guys I'm with, I would never forget them, but we would all go home and live in different places. If something were to happen to Joshua, though, I would constantly be reminded of it all the time, because we live in the same house."
When not deployed with the Army, Joshua works in a factory making electrical components, while Brandon is a guitarist in a band.
"It's real neat to go through this experience with your brother," Joshua said. "My Army brother's here. I've known the Army a year or two, but I've known Brandon for 22 years, so it's a little closer than someone I don't know much about, especially when we have the same parents, friends and lifestyles. Growing up together, we watched each other make mistakes, so now we're out at a location where you can't make many mistakes, if any at all, and it's good watching him take responsibility and being an example."
"The Sitton brothers are two of my best soldiers," said Army Master Sgt. Charles Coleman, the detachment's platoon sergeant. "They work very hard to accomplish the mission and keep morale high. During stressful times, they pull together and pull others with them, and are always highly motivated."
The provincial reconstruction team assists in the stabilization and security of Paktika province, a large province located on Afghanistan's eastern border, near the Pakistan tribal areas. The team assists efforts to provide health care, development, governance and agriculture needs of the local Afghan population.