LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- At first glance, the sight of the two U.S. Army infantry staff sergeants discussing upcoming operations around a map seems like just another common occurrence. With a closer look, however, a person might think his vision is playing tricks on him.
"This isn't the first time this has happened," explained Staff Sgt. Mark Szyman, a squad leader in Heavy Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. "Our first sergeant used to think we were messing with him by wearing the same name tapes."
Across from him, nodding his head in agreement, sat Staff Sgt. Nicholas Szyman, also a squad leader in Heavy Troop. The two are brothers, and natives of San Antonio, Texas, but currently they find themselves on a small tactical base in eastern Afghanistan.
"This also isn't the first time we've found ourselves overseas together," Nicholas said. "We were stationed together in Hawaii, and deployed together to Iraq from 2007 to 2009."
For the brothers, the military is a family profession. Their younger brother, Travis Szyman, also served in Heavy Troop with them before getting out of the Army. Their father served in the military, too.
"Our parents are supportive of us," Mark said. "I think it's better for my mom to know that we are together and can look out for one another."
About halfway through their nine-month deployment, the brothers agree that being together is a great experience. Their troop is supporting Train, Advise and Assist Command-East and the advising mission here.
Mark, the eldest, is a squad leader in the ground defense zone platoon. His mission involves providing force protection for the area immediately surrounding the base.
Nicholas is a guardian angel team leader. As a guardian angel, he facilitates the train, advise and assist mission by providing security for the advisor teams when they conduct engagements with their Afghan counterparts.
"I think I have the better mission," said Nicholas, half-jokingly. "But, he [Mark] does get to ride around in helicopters a lot more than I do."
Capt. Russell Huebner, former Heavy Troop commander, said he enjoyed the sense of family spirit the siblings brought to his troop.
"The good thing about having brothers in the unit is they bring others into the family bond they have," said Huebner. "They really raise the troop's morale."
"The best thing about being together during our deployment is being able to vent to my brother when I can't talk to anyone else," Nicholas said. "He knows and understands what's going on here already."
"We have gone through literally everything together," said Mark.
When they aren't in Afghanistan, the brothers are stationed together at Fort Hood, Texas. They admit they don't spend as much time together back home because of their busy schedules. Nicholas is married to Rachel Syzman, and they have two children, Trinity and Liberty. Mark is married to Mary Kate Szyman, and the couple lives near Austin, Texas.
This deployment is a bitter-sweet time for the brothers, as Mark plans to leave the Army after the deployment. But, for now, they are enjoying every moment together.