By Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Brandon Moreno, 1st Armd. Div., USD-CNovember 1, 2010
BAGHDAD -- "Go big or go home" is what Sgt. Ashleigh Berg told her husband, Sgt. Matthew Berg, when they decided to reenlist for four more years Oct. 21 in front of the "Crossed Sabers" in Baghdad's Green Zone.
Ashleigh, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the secretary of general staff for 1st Armored Division, United States Division - Center, and a Malibu, Calif., native, and Matthew, a vehicle maintenance noncommissioned officer with the headquarters motor pool with 1st Armd. Div., and a Mobile, Ala., native, have been married to each other for more than five years and have many experiences most civilian couples do not share.
"We met at Camp Red Cloud (South Korea) while doing gate guard duty," Matthew said. "During our duty, we had a good chat and after that I started showing her around Korea."
"In a way, he almost became my sponsor, as he showed me around the different parts of Seoul," Ashleigh said while looking over at her husband with a smile.
After spending time with each other and traveling together, the Bergs' relationship developed and they eventually became engaged to be married. The couple took advantage of the unique opportunity to get married in the South Korean capital, Seoul.
"When we got married, we paid our 30,000 won (the equivalent of $30) and were issued a Korean wedding certificate that actually had all the writing in Hangul (the alphabet native to the Korean language)," Ashleigh said. "We then, of course, went over to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul where our marriage became official. I think it's pretty cool. I mean there are not many people I know who have a wedding certificate in Hangul."
As both Soldiers' enlistments neared the ends of their terms of service, they decided to reenlist, for the first time, and were stationed in Germany.
"Germany was great," Matthew said. "We kept traveling and got to see most of the country and even some other countries like Austria. We even took advantage of the (Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, in Garmisch, Germany), which was a lot of fun."
In their third year of marriage, Ashleigh found herself packing her bags and kissing her husband goodbye for a deployment to Iraq, but the two set up solutions to keep communication flowing between them while she was away.
"Before I left Iraq, we made sure we had both purchased webcams and had Skype downloaded onto our computers," Ashleigh said. "We also kept open lines of communication between each other leading up to the deployment so, in a way, we had both mentally prepared ourselves for this."
However, the couple was apart for only months before Matthew was informed he would be joining his wife in Iraq with 1st Armored Division.
"The transition of having him come in was actually an easy one," Ashleigh said with a small laugh. "About two days before he came to join me, my roommate at the time had moved out, so he was able to literally just move right in."
Ashleigh and Matthew said not much has changed between their first deployment to Iraq together and their current one, but it is not always easy-and at the end of the day, it's the little things that count.
"From the last deployment to this one, we never really worked too far from each other," Ashleigh said.
Matthew said Ashleigh can sometimes work very late, and while she is nearby, he may go the whole day without seeing her. However, he is glad to see her at the end of the day as opposed to being separated by thousands of miles.
"Coming out here today was awesome," Ashleigh said about the opportunity to reenlist in front of the Crossed Sabers, which mark then ends of what used to be Saddam Hussein's military parade grounds. "I had the chance today to get out and see a real part of Iraq."
Matthew said the day was exciting-his second time in a helicopter-and that he felt fortunate see a little bit of what Baghdad actually looks like, while some people go a whole deployment seeing nothing but dirt and concrete blast walls.
Deployments are not easy, and the added stressors of a relationship can be an extra challenge to manage, but Ashleigh and Matthew agree that whether pulling guard duty, traveling or reenlisting, they are truly in step with each other-and on a deployment, that can make all the difference in the world.