Calvert brothers bond over history while serving in Iraq
January 12, 2011
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq -- Two brothers, both colonels in the U.S. armor branch, got the chance to reunite recently for a historic mission in Baghdad while deployed in support of Operation New Dawn.
Born 20 months apart in Spartanburg, S.C., Col. Paul T. Calvert, commander of 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan., and Col. Mark E. Calvert, chief of staff for 1st Armored Division out of Wiesbaden, Germany, found themselves working together under United States Division-Center in Baghdad for more than five weeks during November and December 2010.
It was during that time that 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., replaced 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Ga., and 25th Infantry Division, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, replaced 1st Armd. Div., which redeployed to Germany in December.
Mark, the older of the two, said 1st Armd. Div.'s mission had served to set the stage for Paul and 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., one of the last brigades in Baghdad.
"I knew (Paul) was the right guy for the job," he said. "He has the right mentality coming here and to lead this organization to be able to get things closed."
Commissioned four years apart, the Calvert brothers have continually crossed paths throughout their careers, sometimes even serving in the same regiment or unit together. Both were assigned to 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment in Germany and deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. They were assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Irwin, Calif., simultaneously, and also deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 to 2004 at the same time.
"What's always been a blessing for me is the fact that I could pick up the phone and call somebody I trusted implicitly and say, 'Hey, how did you deal with this problem or how did you do that''" Paul said.
Paul said getting unfiltered advice and mentorship as he entered into the things his brother had already been through has been positive.
Military service runs in the Calvert Family - with representation between their grandfather, father and uncles in World War II and the Vietnam War.
Mark said he decided to join the Army at an early age.
"I pretty much knew that's what I wanted to do," he said.
Paul, however, wasn't so sure after high school.
"I just had a hard time getting myself together," he said.
Growing up, the Calvert brothers were actively involved in sports, though they both agree that basketball was not their strong suit. They focused on football and baseball, and they both were coached by their father, who lost a five-year battle with cancer when Paul was a junior in high school and Mark was a freshman in college.
"We were both pretty close with him," Mark said. "So, both of us spent a little bit more time in school than we probably should have."
After seeing his brother get his commission and how much he loved it, Paul finalized his decision to join the Army.
"It's a team-oriented sport, so to speak, and playing high school football and everything, I loved being in that environment... I jumped in and ran with it," he said with a smile. "It's worked out pretty decent I think."
Sports and the Army continue to connect the Calvert brothers today, as they jokingly recall a particular game of golf played on the Anderson-Lindsay Golf Course at Fort Knox when Paul was a newly-promoted captain and Mark was an instructor at the Cavalry Leader's Course.
"(It was) the highly-competitive, big brother, little brother thing,"Paul said.
"Paul lost track of how many putts he'd done on the second green," Mark said. "He disagrees with that and we had a disagreement over the score on the hole."
Still unsure to this day on who was ultimately right, Paul said they just don't keep score any more.
"As opposed to making complete idiots of ourselves and having a fight right in the middle of the golf course, we simply quit keeping score and played on," he said.
Another memory fondly shared is when the brothers were both stationed at Fort Irwin working at the National Training Center. The commanding general at the time was Gen. James D. Thurman, current commander of United States Forces Command, who also served alongside his own brother in the Army. Paul said Thurman has always treated him and his brother very well and that he took great pleasure in introducing them to visitors at the NTC.
"He'd put Paul in one headlock and me in another headlock and he'd rub our heads and hold us in (and say), 'These are my pups!'" Mark said. "These boys run the rotation for me!"
With Paul serving as a brigade commander and Mark as a division chief of staff, the opportunity for the two to spend time together rarely presented itself. Yet, the Internet helped alleviate that.
"We always stay connected," Paul said, who even recently joined Facebook. "And the first thing I post on Facebook, he comes back with some smart comment."
"(I said) 'Welcome to the 21st century,' or something like that," Mark said with a laugh.
Saying goodbye to loved ones, friends, and in this case, brothers, is often a certainty in military life. It's nothing the Calverts haven't done before.
"You know, we don't say goodbye," Mark said. "I'll see him when he gets back (from Iraq)."
"Yep, until our next post," Paul said.