As a veteran, there is no higher compliment Randall Southerland could pay Jody Creekmore.

"That is one Soldier that I would go bare-fisted into a foxhole with, because I know that I'm taken care of," Southerland said.

"It goes both ways," Creekmore replied.

The two don't find themselves in foxholes these days, but they work every day in support of those who do at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center's Systems Simulation, Software and Integration Directorate. Long before they devoted their civilian careers to being Warfighter-focused, they were Warfighters - at times serving side by side.

"We do have a unique story," said Creekmore, CCDC AvMC S3I aviation trainer branch chief.

Southerland, an Alabama native, enlisted in the Army in 1978, following in the steps of three of his five brothers. Creekmore's military heritage dates back to the American Revolution - his father was career Army, his uncle served in the Korean War, and his grandfathers in World War II. When he enlisted in 1981, it was a natural fit.

It would be several years before their paths converged, but their Army stories bear a striking resemblance. They both served on active duty through the Cold War, went into the Reserve and pursued civilian careers, only to be called up again after 9/11. Creekmore eventually deployed to Iraq; Southerland to Afghanistan.

The duo first crossed paths in the mid-1990s, but cemented their brotherhood in 2003. Both were assigned to the then-1st Brigade, 87th Maneuver Area Command, in Birmingham in the early days of the Iraq War. Creekmore served as the operations officer; Southerland as the first sergeant for mobilization. It was a busy time with multiple Reserve units being mobilized at the same time. Creekmore received the missions, while Southerland ensured the Soldiers made it to where they were supposed to go.

"The mission was a wartime mission," Creekmore said. "It was a hard mission. It wasn't a 9-to-5 job. It was seven days a week - even though we weren't deployed overseas, we were working seven days a week. Our relationship changed because we worked so closely together. In order to take care of Soldiers we had to work very closely together to manage that number of people going that many places simultaneously."

Creekmore came off mobilization after 10 months and returned to civilian life, while Southerland stayed in Birmingham, eventually deploying to Afghanistan. Upon his return he was assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve Center on Patton Road in Huntsville as the sergeant major for the brigade of scientists and engineers. In 2013 he received word who their newest commander would be - Col. Joseph Creekmore.

"I said, 'My life is good, royally blessed,'" Southerland recalled.

The two served side by side until their retirement in 2016, and even held a rare joint change of command and change-of-responsibility ceremony. Creekmore served in uniform for more than 35 years, Southerland for 37.

Their story, however, didn't end with their retirement.

Creekmore, who has worked at AvMC since 2008, was joined by Southerland, an administrative assistant for S3I, in 2016. Today, they are part of a large veteran population that serves the Warfighter through their work at AvMC - their story is just a little more intertwined than others.

"It's an honor and privilege," Creekmore said. "I don't say those words lightly, and I know that Randall wouldn't say that lightly either. The ability to work with a trusted person - who you have skin in the game with, who's battle tested - towards a common goal of continuing to provide for Soldiers and the Warfighter, those words do really have meaning for us because we were the ones on the other end that were receiving the support. To be here and now in this capacity - in the same organization making sure that things are developed, designed and engineered here go back in the hands of the Warfighter - is an honor and privilege."

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The CCDC Aviation & Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation & Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, which conducts responsive research, development and life cycle engineering to deliver the aviation and missile capabilities the Army depends on to ensure victory on the battlefield today and tomorrow. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.