War on Terrorism

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Face of Defense: Sailor Serves With Marine Husband

By Marine Corps Cpl. Shannon McMillan
1st Marine Logistics Group

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Jan. 27, 2011 – Most spouses of active duty military members have to endure the hardship of separation while their loved one is deployed, but one couple here serves together in the same unit.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chat Rice and Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jeff Rice, both San Diego natives, are deployed together with 1st Marine Logistics Group.

Multiple deployments have separated the sailor and Marine for much of their seven-year marriage, and this is the first time the couple has deployed together.

“Having him here is very good for me,” said Chat, 29, of her husband. “I can always go to him if I need someone to talk to, or just hang out and talk about our families and our son.”

The couple met in August 2001 while stationed together in Okinawa, Japan. Then in 2002, Chat received orders to Camp Pendleton, Calif., so they maintained a long-distance relationship, she said. While they were still dating, Jeff deployed twice with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. They were married Feb. 8, 2003.

Since they’ve been married, Jeff has deployed five times –- this is his eighth deployment overall -– and this is Chat’s second deployment. In 2008, the only year Jeff wasn’t deployed during their marriage, the couple’s son, Seth, was born.

“As you can see, it took us a while to have a child, because he’s always deployed,” Chat said of Jeff’s multiple deployments.

During their current deployment, Jeff and Chat work in the same compound, but have very different jobs. Chat works as a patient tracker for the Health Services Support Element. Her responsibilities include globally tracking all 1st Marine Logistics Group patients from their point of injury to their final destination and providing their status to command leaders.

Jeff serves as the logistics group’s radio chief and spectrum manager. He plans and supervises the installation, operation and maintenance of all single-channel radios as the radio chief, and as the spectrum manager, he answers frequency requests and provides call signs to all group units.

Although they work long hours, the couple tries to spend as much time together as they can while deployed.

“We try to eat chow together as much as possible,” said Jeff, 29, originally from Warsaw, Ohio. “So I would say we get to hang out a lot due to the fact that not too many people get to deploy with their spouse.”

They also turn in their laundry together, Chat added. “I know it’s kind of funny,” she said, “but that’s another way to spend time with him.”

The military lifestyle can be difficult for any marriage, especially when both are on active duty, but Jeff said he is thankful to have his wife around for moral support, especially since they are both separated from their young son.

“It is a blessing being deployed together, but also very hard, because our son is back home with his grandparents,” he said.

Although the parents are thousands of miles away from their son, they try to video chat with Seth as often as they can.

“Once a week, we Skype with our son,” Chat said. “That’s our way of having quality time with the family.”

Along with supporting each other during challenging moments of the deployment, the Rices support each other’s accomplishments, the most recent being Chat’s Jan. 21 re-enlistment ceremony, in which she signed on for another six years in the Navy.

“It was nice to witness the ceremony and be a part of it,” Jeff said. “I haven’t had a chance to be at a lot of her ceremonies, since we have jobs and commitments. I was proud of her, because she loves the Navy. She really tries to strive to be the best sailor.”

Jeff said he also is proud of his wife for being named the Regional Command Southwest sailor of the quarter this month.

“She goes above and beyond what is expected of her,” Jeff said. She sets the bar high.”

As their eighth wedding anniversary approaches, the Rices look forward to celebrating the occasion together, albeit a bit differently from previous years.

“Oh, it will definitely be different than spending it back home,” Chat said. “We usually like to have a fancy dinner somewhere in Coronado or La Jolla, but here, we’ll be enjoying some good chow hall meal. But seriously, we are both happy to spend our special day together.”

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