FORT KNOX, Ky. – After years of marriage, they complete each other’s sentences and both agree that Army values are the same as marriage values.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Rader, assistant chief of staff, G3, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, is married to Sgt. Maj. Alan Rader, senior enlisted advisor, 14th Human Resources Center, 1st TSC.
Jennifer Rader said, “People always look at us and ask, ‘How did that happen?’.”
The couple met April 9, 1999 in Hawaii. The sergeant major was a sergeant serving as a military policeman in the Army and she was in college and enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. They were introduced by one of his friends who was dating her sister.
He said that he always remembers the date they met, because it was his birthday. He joked that she can’t match that first birthday gift – meeting her.
It was not, however, love at first sight.
“We didn’t really like each other at first,” the lieutenant colonel said.
Eventually, the two found some common ground, and a relationship blossomed from there.
“It was our love and passion for the Army that brought us together,” the sergeant major shared. “We talked four or five hours, then I asked for her number.” That’s how it started.
He is quick to mention that, “We never violated a fraternization policy.”
Since the Army has a strict fraternization policy, he transitioned to the civil sector once Jennifer was commissioned.
“I got out of the Army for almost five years,” he said.
Alan Rader joined Jennifer Rader in Virginia, and they married in September 2000.
It was about 28 days after her first deployment to Kuwait when Alan got a call from a recruiter asking if he was interested in rejoining the Army. He told him that he needed to talk it over with his wife.
The sergeant major said that he still had that lust for the Army. He also had 10 years of service when he got out.
“When she was home, I got that daily fix of military talk, but that all ended when she deployed,” he said.
“When I called her in Kuwait, she said, ‘I’m surprised I kept you out for this long’,” he laughed.
She asked him if he could try serving in the Army Reserve since they had children already, and she thought it would be easier to manage. He agreed, but was quickly mobilized for three years. He went straight to drill sergeant school, and their next assignment was back in Hawaii.
“I knew that when I put the uniform back on, I wouldn’t want to take it off again,” Alan Rader said.
It was a change for him too. He re-enlisted to serve as a human resources specialist instead of a military policeman.
“I went from the customer is always wrong, to the customer is always right,” he joked.
He said that he did learn to be articulate and communicate as a military policeman, so it helped him with his new job in the Adjutant Generals Corps.
Both Soldiers claim to be workaholics who love what they do and love serving in the Army.
In addition to their shared love for the Army, they also focus on their family and enjoy spending time with their kids and their parents.
“We always incorporate family into our vacations,” Jennifer Rader said.
The Raders’ vacations always involve spending time with family members. They enjoy going on boat cruises, and the last one they took with her parents.
When they lived in Virginia they got annual season passes for Busch Gardens and Water Country. When they were stationed in Korea, Alan Rader bought his wife a set of golf clubs, and she became a golfer. It was another way for them to share time competing. Both admit to being competitive.
“She has a lot of integrity, except when it comes to golf,” Alan Rader laughed. “And, she still beats me at golf.”
Now the Raders also enjoy camping. They have often lived near her family, and now they live closer to Alan Rader’s brother who resides within a two-hour drive from them. They like to camp together on weekends.
How have they made it work for so long? They allot time to decompress and communicate daily. They also both love serving in the Army.
“Every night we try to set aside an hour to talk about our day,” Alan Rader said. It’s their time to unwind from the work day, listen to each other and spend quality time together.
The sergeant major said that it’s also important to say, “I’m sorry,” compromise, and to say, “Yes, dear.”
The Army is home to the Raders. They have been able to make it work for 21 years of marriage. However, there have been some challenges.
They have had to lean on each other and family members throughout their careers.
When they both deployed at the same time, other family members stepped up to help care for their children and sometimes even their pets.
Another challenge they’ve experienced is synchronizing assignments. So, they’re both happy to be here at the 1st TSC, which marks the third time they’ve been assigned to the same unit.
There are many positives to working together in the same unit. As a couple, they offer both an officer and an enlisted perspective to issues.
Alan Rader elaborated, “Let me give you the enlisted perspective. When you were saying this…they were interpreting it as this.”
Another big positive about being a dual-service couple is that they are able to discuss all of their issues and concerns, and the other fully understands.
“This makes us better as Soldiers and leaders,” Jennifer Rader said. “I gain a different perspective when talking with Alan about issues. Sometimes we can talk each through things.”
While dedicating their careers to the Army, they also raised three children who are now ages 30, 28, and 26. Two also serve in the Army.
Their son, Capt. Greg Rader, is stationed at Fort Drum, New York, and their daughter, Spc. Kayla Franza, hopes to be accepted into the Green to Gold Program soon. She currently serves at the Pentagon. Their third daughter works for Amazon, and they also have four grandchildren.
Both Soldiers enjoy serving together here at the 1st TSC and will continue living the Army and marriage values they affirm to be one in the same.