BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Imagine being the younger sister, in a traditional Mexican house, where your older sister is the boss while mom works a night job. Now imagine, many years later, you outrank your older sister. Let payback begin.
Meet the Gallardo sisters, Master Sgt. Eliana Y. Gallardo, operations noncommissioned officer in charge, and Capt. Carla J. Gallardo, operations officer, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade Resolute Sustainment Support Brigade, (1AD RSSB), who are now deployed together to Afghanistan supporting Operation Resolute Support.
They were born in Mexico but raised in Stockton, Calif., from 1990 to 2001. Both have been in the Army for over 11 years, but this is their first opportunity to serve together. Deploying with a sibling is not uncommon but a younger sister outranking the older sister, there has to be some karma in that.
"Being from a traditional Mexican family, the older siblings take care of the younger siblings," said Carla. "With our mom working at night, that left the job for the older sisters to act as mom for the younger kids. We didn't form a bond until later in life as she (Eliana) was very mean to me growing up, very bossy."
They were raised with strong Mexican culture. Both parents worked to provide a better life for their six children. Their father worked as a farmer during the day and their mom worked a night job to make ends meet. The Gallardo sisters are five years apart in age and while they are close today, this was not the case growing up.
"My job was to take care of Carla and our youngest sister Eunice," said Eliana. "Did I enjoy the power? What big sister doesn't?"
During the early years, their relationship was more of a "mother/daughter" dynamic. This proved to be impactful when Carla watched her older sister Eliana graduate high school and join the Army.
"Everyone was still at home and never left; that was our culture," said Eliana. "I just wanted to get away and see the world. I had no idea Carla would follow in my footsteps many years later."
Carla did carve her own path. After high school, she decided to go to college first and become the first in her family to graduate with a college degree. After graduation, she was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army and with that, the power shifted.
"I decided I wanted to be the first in my family to graduate college and then join the military as an officer," said Carla. "The thought did cross my mind many times that one day Eliana might have to salute me and do what I say."
Today they laugh about the older sister saluting the younger, but military customs and courtesies do not distinguish or give credit for being the older sister. Enlisted must pay respect to the officer ranks by rendering a salute and using "Sir" and "Ma'am."
"I remember saluting her for the first time," said Eliana. It was in Fort Bragg and I just thought, oh, I can't believe years ago I changed her diaper and now I'm saluting her. It was one of the proudest moments of my life."
When they are not deployed , they live two blocks away from each other outside Fort Bliss, Texas where they are both stationed. They have formed a bond through the years as the age difference became less relevant and the thing they have most in common, their Army careers, helped solidify their friendship.
"We live two blocks away from each other which is pretty cool," said Eliana. "We do a lot of things together, hiking, CrossFit, running and we love binge watching Game of Thrones."
The deployment for the 1AD RSSB to support operations in Afghanistan meant both sisters would have to leave Texas to support their unit. Deployments for Soldiers are nothing new but deploying with a sister brings some unique benefits for the Gallardo sisters.
"I love being deployed with my sister; I can have conversations about military stuff and she understands," said Eliana. "With other family members, that don't serve, it's more difficult because they don't know the culture. She understands the burdens you sometimes have in the military."
"Having a family member here, a friend, to experience everything that is going on in real time is amazing," said Carla. "It's also nice having each other during holidays when it can sometimes be lonely."
Both sisters work in the logistics field which puts them right in the middle of the action for this deployment. The mission for the 1AD RSSB is to provide logistical support and sustainment for warfighters operating in Afghanistan. Support includes, but is not limited to, all classes of supplies, equipment, maintenance, transportation and anything else a warfighter needs to conduct combat operations. Sustainment brigade's also coordinate how the supplies are delivered; airdrops, convoy's, helicopters and boats.
"For 18 years I have been perfecting my trade as a logistician," said Eliana. "To have the opportunity to use those skills for a mission that relies completely on logistics is rewarding."
The Gallardo's said they are appreciative of the support they've received from the leadership of the 1AD RSSB and said they were grateful for the opportunity to serve on this deployment together.