Maj. Christina Cavanaugh, 35th Engineer Battalion executive officer (left), administers the oath of office to her brother, Capt. Derick Harjo, executive officer for Company C, 169th Engineer Battalion, during his promotion to captain on Monday at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Maj. Christina Cavanaugh, 35th Engineer Battalion executive officer (left), administers the oath of office to her brother, Capt. Derick Harjo, executive officer for Company C, 169th Engineer Battalion, during his promotion to captain on Monday at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, in Gulfport, Mississippi. (Photo Credit: Photo by Capt. Brad Dinkel, Company C, 169th Engineer Battalion) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Army is a small world after all, at least for Maj. Christina Cavanaugh, 35th Engineer Battalion executive officer, and her younger brother, Capt. Derick Harjo, executive officer for Company C, 169th Engineer Battalion.

While the 169th is headquartered at Fort Leonard Wood, under the 1st Engineer Brigade, Charlie Company trains Army carpentry and masonry engineers at the multi-service Naval Construction Training Center at the Naval Construction Battalion Center, in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Cavanaugh traveled from Fort Leonard Wood to Gulfport to administer the oath of office to her brother during his promotion to captain on Monday.

“Ever since we were young, it has always been important to me to set the example for my little brother,” she said. “We didn’t grow up in the same house for his entire childhood, and even though I was at a distance from him for most of his life, I made sure I was still present and available.”

For Harjo, the opportunity to have family present for one of his career milestones was exciting because their family is small and cannot always travel cross-country.

“It gave us a bright memory to have as a family moving forward,” he said.

The rare occasion was also a chance for Cavanaugh to display the roles of both big sister and senior ranking officer.

“I am watching my little brother grow as a man and Army officer,” she said. “As we grow up and have our own lives, we grow apart. So, this was an opportunity for us to come together, and for me to mentor him.”

Having Cavanaugh there to administer the oath at the ceremony served as a morale boost for the rest of the unit as well, said Capt. Brad Dinkel, Charlie Company commander.

Dinkel said it is important to recognize Soldiers and their families in the largest venues possible, because it helps everyone refocus on achievement and success.

“We want to recognize the commitment and sacrifices families make every day to support their Soldiers,” he said. “Families are an integral source of strength for our Soldiers, and Charlie Company is committed to the well-being of Soldiers and their families. Recognizing both sides of the team is extremely important to us.”

This wasn’t the first time Cavanaugh has traveled to support her brother. In 2018, she commissioned him at her alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York — a path he took in her footsteps.

“As a child, I knew I wanted to go explore the world and seek adventure,” Harjo said. “When my sister got accepted into West Point, we went and visited her and toured the campus.”

Afterward, Harjo said everything clicked for him. His Army career makes the siblings both seventh-generation service members — their father was an Army Engineer officer as well.

Later this month, Cavanaugh will move from the 35th to take over as XO at the 169th, and Harjo will move from the 169th to the 554th Engineer Battalion while he attends the Engineer Captains Career Course here. The idea that he was so close to being assigned to the same unit as his sister put things into perspective for Harjo in an entertaining way.

“I think the whole thing is funny, and it brings a smile to my face,” Harjo said. “The Army has units across continents, but is also so small that I end up in the same unit as my older sister.”

After completing ECCC, Harjo said he hopes to take command of a company — something he is ready for, according to Dinkel.

“Capt. Harjo is committed to the Soldiers in the unit and has consistently shown that he cares about the team and is ready for command,” Dinkel said. “We are all excited for the next chapter of his story, and wish him all the best.”

For Cavanaugh, promoting her brother is a tradition she hopes to continue — and maybe, even in the same unit one day.

“I would love to serve with him in the same command,” she said. “I hope to promote him to major in six to seven years.”