CAMP SIMBA, Kenya — For most fathers, an overseas deployment of a child is a mixture of pride and apprehension. When a second child is included, those emotions double.
For Staff Sgt. Daniel Fisher, the best way to keep an eye on your children is to be right there with them. He serves alongside two of his sons, Spcs. Caleb and Jacob Fisher. The three are all deployed with the Virginia Army National Guard’s Task Force Red Dragon, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
“It’s almost surreal, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Daniel said. “I feel like not many dads can say they deployed to a combat zone with their kids.”
Daniel’s first enlistment was active duty from 1999 to 2002 as a communication specialist. After an extended break in service, he re-enlisted April 1, 2015.
Serving with the Suffolk-based Bravo Troop, 2nd Battalion, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, the three are assigned to the security force mission at Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya. Their mission consists of mobile mounted security and internal tower security for the camp.
“Being co-located and the fact that we’re all performing the same mission makes it easier,” Daniel said. “I know what their tasks are. I know what the threat level is in the area. I know these stressors, and we’re all experiencing them on the same level. It’s just a really unique set of circumstances.”
Caleb is the elder brother at 26 years old. He enlisted in 2016 as a military police officer, became a cavalry scout in 2019 and completed his military occupation training in September, just before the deployment.
Jacob joined the Virginia National Guard in 2015 as a cavalry scout at the age of 18.
The brothers were motivated to join as part of their family heritage. They cited a long line of military family members, including both parents and their grandfather.
“There was definitely a duty to serve,” Jacob said. “Also, to give me a head start on adulthood and to get the experience I needed to succeed in life.”
For members of the Virginia National Guard, including the Fishers, 2021 was a year filled with missions, training, and preparation for mobilization. The year started with the law enforcement support mission in Washington, D.C., in January. They conducted a 15-day annual training in August, another in November, and began federal active duty the day after Thanksgiving.
“I think the op-tempo of the year is what presented the biggest challenge for our family,” Daniel said. “With the activation in D.C. and then rolling in through the training year, extended ATs and then leaving right around the holidays for the mobilization process.”
A tight-knit group, the Fishers all live in Williamsburg, Virginia. The father-son team also works together on the civilian side as government contractors.
“We tend to make everything a family business,” Caleb said jokingly.
For a family like the Fishers, having all three of them deployed at one time presents its own set of challenges. They agree that getting ready for the deployment was harder for them than actually doing the mission. The knowledge of leaving behind spouses and younger siblings created an emotional rollercoaster leading up to their departure.
“We started counting down the goodbyes,” Jacob said. “Christmas is a really big thing in our family, so we rolled Thanksgiving and Christmas all together in those few days before we left. It was a very emotional time.”
Even though they are all together at Camp Simba, there is still the reality of being deployed in an austere environment.
“It’s a double-edged sword because you still worry about them,” Jacob said.
“But, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to deploy with your dad and your brother. I would take the arrangement we have now every day of the week.”
Realizing the scope and importance of the mission that they are part of is helping to ease the reality of being away from home for an extended period.
They are proud to be able to serve their country and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“I think that my biggest takeaway from this deployment will be my gratefulness to my family for their support,” Daniel Fisher said. “We have gained a humble understanding and appreciation of the burden that all families of deployed service members carry back at home.”