By Staff Sgt. Michel A. Sauret
354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
IRAQ - One of the biggest challenges Soldiers face during deployment is having to leave family at home. It is through that process that kinship grows among fellow Soldiers, and units become second families. The sacrifices Soldiers make are great, and in order to endure, their trust and support for one another must be even greater.
For Spc. James Anthony and his daughter Pfc. Brenna Mei, however, kinship is as real as ever. Both belong to the 583rd Military Police Detachment, a law and order National Guard unit from Youngstown, Ohio. The two will deploy together to Camp Victory, Iraq, this April in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I'm kind of glad that we're together, that way we can look out for each other, help support each other when we have our down days," Anthony said, an operations clerk and patrolman.
Mei, 19, is actually Anthony's step-daughter, but he sees her the same as one of his own. The two have served together in the 583rd since February of 2007. In fact, her mother married Anthony on the same day of Mei's first battle assembly.
When enlisting in the National Guard, Mei, a radio dispatcher, saw an opportunity to serve while still attending college. She chose the 583rd not only because of her father, but because of the close-knit environment it provides, she said.
"I wanted to join a smaller unit, and I knew that this was a law and order detachment, and that sort of appealed to me," she said.
In deploying alongside her father, Mei said she looks forward to the experience and support Anthony can provide her, as a father and a veteran as well.
"I'm proud of being here," Mei said. "The fact that my dad is here with me for my first deployment is an awesome thing to have."
This is Anthony's third overseas deployment. Anthony's first deployment was with the Army during Desert Storm, and his second was Bosnia while serving in the Navy.
"If I was out here by myself, I would worry about her back home," Anthony said. "But I'm glad she's going along this one here with us."
Anthony said this deployment will give Mei the experience and opportunity for life's upcoming events, whether another deployment or the challenges of everyday life.
Mei also sees this deployment as a stepping stone toward her own future career in the Army. While she plans to earn her degree from the University of Akron, she said she will continue her service once she graduates. Holding off college classes for now is a sacrifice Mei said she's willing to make.
"I'm really happy I made the choices I did to be deployable," she said.
In fact, after she finished basic combat training, she had the option of coming home on a split training program instead of going straight through advanced individual training. Had she come home, she would have missed out on this deployment.
"I'm glad she made the decision she did," Anthony said. "It's great to watch her go from not being in the military, graduating (high school) going through basic and AIT... coming to the unit ... It's amazing how much she's learned (during this deployment process)."
Both father and daughter said that their training here at Fort Dix has really helped them stand out and grow as Soldiers, ready to face the challenges in Iraq. Anthony called the training "intense;" Mei had similar words to describe it.
"For me I think the most important part of the training was the physicality. For someone like me that was really helpful. Nobody would ever say it, but (I know that) I'm young, and I'm small. So the fact that I can run around in all that gear and be useful proved a lot to everybody, including myself," she said.
Anthony said that he trusts in the Army training he's received while at Fort Dix, and knows that Mei would be able to handle herself regardless of whether he was there or not. Even though they are father and daughter, they both see themselves as individuals going through this deployment.
"Everybody knows we're related, but at the same time, they don't associate me with him all the time," Mei said.
In part, she gave due credit for such independence to her Army training, and to her own willingness to make sacrifices and to serve. Even as individuals, both Anthony and Mei know they have a strong group of Soldiers in their unit who will support them.
"We've grown into a little, close-knit family," Anthony said. "Everybody from the lieutenant colonel down to the privates. We're there for each other."
Having her father there helped her during the new Army training she isn't as familiar with.
For Anthony this is his third deployment between Army and Navy including a tour in support of Desert Storm and later medical training to Bosnia and Croatia. Third overseas deployment.
"We have a lot of support at home," Anthony said.
"She's pretty much just excited to see me stepping out as an adult, and doing something I think is important. She's already in the Navy and I think she understands that," Mei.
Anthony has 3 boys, a stepdaughter and stepson. Married to his second wife since Feb. 2007, after meeting her while serving in the Navy Reserve. He was prior Army and served for four years up until 1992.
Anthony said that he trusts in the Army training he's received while in Fort Dix, and knows that she would be able to handle herself regardless of whether he was there or not.
"It's pretty intense training," he said.
"We've grown into a little, close-knit family. Everybody from the lieutenant colonel down to the privates ... We're there for each other," he said.
"I think it's nice we're such a small unit."
Mei was supposed to come back home after basic instead of going straight through AIT. "I'm really happy I made the choices I did to be deployable."
This work, Father, Daughter Make Family of Own in Army, by MSG Michel Sauret, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.