By Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, MND-B PAOOctober 21, 2009
BAGHDAD - At first glance, they don't look like brothers. Staff Sgt. Avery Washington is stoic, even-tempered and wears glasses. Sgt. Steven Barner is the youngest and has a smooth southern drawl while Staff Sgt. Joseph Willett is loud, friendly and has a hearty laugh.
"We're pretty much brothers," said Barner with a smile.
These three tankers aren't related by blood, but that doesn't matter. Assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, they are on their third combat tour in five years to Baghdad as a team. This time they are helping to mentor and train Iraqi Army Soldiers to fight as one team and become what they have become- brothers.
"It's sad that it takes war to bring people together with teamwork, but that's one thing that we have in Blue Platoon - teamwork," explained Willett, a native of Evansville, Ind.
At Joint Security Station Shield, here, where they train their IA counterparts, the three Soldiers stand around during a break in training to joke with each other.
"This is the first guy I met at Fort Hood when I showed up as a private," said Barner, from Greenwood, Miss., as he pushes Willett. "I've been trying to get rid of him ever since!"
Barner added that being familiar and able to joke around with his other noncommissioned officers really helps ease tensions.
"I remember that time our last tour when we were riding in our tanks and an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit my tank and blew the M-240 machine gun off the tank," said Barner with a laugh.
Though there have not been too many close calls this tour for these Soldiers, they still stay sharp by predicting what the other will say or do next.
"Somebody will start out teaching a class, but we always jump in and help each other out," explained Washington about their method of working together.
The three Soldiers constantly interact with different IA Soldiers in the class. When one teaches one class, another would help explain some details of another class and the other would lead a group through a practical exercise.
"But if I ever have a question, I know I can go to Staff Sgt. Washington and Sgt. Barner any time of the day and say, "Hey, I need some help, square me away.' And I know they will," said Willett during a rare serious moment.
"We pretty much know what we're thinking before anything happens, so it comes in handy if something goes down," said Washington, from Atlanta, Texas.
Willett agreed that when the Soldiers are on missions, they are doing the exact same thing that they've been trained to do and know exactly what the other person is going to do.
"The Iraqi Soldiers see how we work together and try to emulate us as Soldiers because we know the standard and are the standard," explained Washington. "We all know the same information and are able to pass it on down to these Soldiers."
"My goal is being able to conduct successful missions and being able to adjust and react properly to situations and redeploy home with all my guys together," continued Washington.
For these NCOs, it might be their last deployment together and opportunity to train Iraqis because they are going different ways once they get back to the U.S., but in the meantime, these Baghdad Brothers are not going to slow down.