FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Three Soldiers assigned to 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command here reflected on what it’s like to serve as a father while serving in the military ahead of the Father’s Day holiday.
Capt. Steven M. Cherubino, a logistics officer, is a new father of a 1-year-old son, while Sgt. 1st Class Chris L. Olson, a petroleum supply specialist, is more seasoned, having five children whose ages range from 15 to 6. Sgt. Joby L. Forney, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, is experiencing fatherhood as the member of a blended family; he has two stepchildren and a biological son with his wife.
Each of the Soldiers assert that, despite the milestones they have missed in their growing children’s lives as a result of their military service, being a father in uniform generates more blessings than challenges.
“I feel like as much separation as you do get from your family, I think the Army really does do a great job making sure that there is good integration periods with family members, that you do have time with your family, and [that you have] a lot of communication with your family—even when you’re gone,” Olson said.
The Rockford, Illinois, native has served in the Army for 15 years. He became a father right after his initial enlistment, and has since deployed five times, and has moved his family to new duty stations on three occasions.
“Command teams are very responsible when it comes to placing service members with their families as much as they possibly can, especially here with dragon family time,” Olson said. “They really step it up when it comes to holiday events … they really put out for the families at FRG events.”
Dragon family time is an XVIII Airborne Corps policy allowing Soldiers to leave work early one day of the week so they have additional time to connect with their loved ones. Family readiness groups are command-sponsored organizations comprised of Soldiers, civilians, volunteers and family members who host family-oriented events and provide other support for military families within specific units.
Besides having ample time with his children, Olson said being a father in uniform has provided him an opportunity to pass on important values to the next generation.
“Honor, integrity, hard work, dedication, and team first—those are the types of things that I want to instill in my children—that’s the example I try to set for them,” he said.
Cherubino echoed those sentiments.
The Woburn, Massachusetts, native has served in the Army for close to 11 years. He recently returned here from a nine-month deployment with 3rd ESC to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The logistics officer said it was tough leaving his son when his son was only 5 months old, but said he was grateful for the opportunity to take paternity leave right before deploying.
“It was great [and] it was necessary just having that time to be able to bond with him, and especially as a new parent, to support my wife,” Cherubino said. “It’s definitely a life-changing event.
“It definitely changes my perspective on how important that is, so now I know when I have Soldiers how important those moments are,” he said.
Cherubino said that while there is no manual for fatherhood, military service has armed him with many skills necessary for his new duties. He is used to operating on limited amounts of sleep, he said, and his training on preparedness helps him ensure he and his wife have everything they need packed in the diaper bag when leaving the house or going on vacations.
The logistics officer said his new role has also been made easier because of the Soldiers he serves alongside and the Army family they are part of. He has been grateful for the support of his military neighbors and for serving with plenty of uniformed fathers.
“One thing I always tell people is that if you wear the Army name tape you’re obligated to take care of anybody else wearing that name tape whether they’re in your unit or not,” Cherubino said. “When it comes to parenting, there’s no rank; I listen to anybody.
“We have people in this unit particularly who are very senior, and some of them have kids that are already passed high school and college age,” he continued. “You look up, down, left and right; I just ask for all that advice.”
The logistics officer aspires to be a good role model for his son.
“We have our Army values, and particularly integrity stands out—always doing the right thing even when no one is looking,” Cherubino said. “Hopefully not too many, but [my son is] going to make mistakes as I have made mistakes, [but I want to teach him] how to recover from them, and learn what the right thing to do is.
“And just being a good citizen,” the logistics officer continued. “Doing the best you can for your country, your community, and your family.”
Forney said he is also looking forward to passing on the values he’s living through his military service to his three children.
The Bend, Oregon, native, said he enlisted in the Army for a second time specifically to provide a better life for his kids. He initially served from 2011 to 2016, and re-entered the service in 2019 once he and his wife welcomed their third child into the world.
“I hope to pass on a sense of selflessness or a willingness to serve, whether it’s military or some type of role where you are putting the needs of others before your own,” Forney said.
The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist said he is especially dedicated to being a good father for his two oldest, whose father has not been in the picture.
Like Cherubino, Forney also recently experienced his first deployment as a dad.
As difficult as it was to be away from his children while he was in Kuwait, he said the reunion and the reintegration have been very meaningful.
When he redeployed, he said it took a few moments for the youngest to warm up to him, “but the other two immediately broke down into tears.”
“It was a teary moment, but I know it was good for them to finally see me again, especially [having] seen me on a screen for so long,” Forney said.