By Sgt. 1st Class JR Williams, 10th Combat Aviation BrigadeDecember 10, 2010
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The tactical operations center of any unit requires continuous observation, coordination and management. Each subsection within the TOC monitors an element of the mission, providing information to the Soldiers in the field while keeping the TOC updated on progress.
In the midst of the activity is one person who maintains line-of-sight communications for each section, provides the overall battle picture for the team, and offers input on the fluid tempo of operations. This person is known as the battle captain.
Transferring responsibility of the battle from one Soldier to another is no simple matter. The battle captain must have the ability to maneuver easily between sections, communicate effectively, synchronize efforts on a variety of fronts and essentially be the right-hand man for the operations officer. The intricacies and nuances of such a job aren't always easy to explain to another person; unless, of course, you're passing the mission to your brother.
"It's a little more familiar getting information from someone you know really well rather than a stranger," said U.S. Army Capt. Paul J. Milas, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade battle captain. "Plus, you know a [family member] wants to set you up for success so they spend more time with you before leaving."
Paul Milas is literally trading places with his brother, U.S. Army Capt. Michael J. Milas, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade battle captain. The brothers, natives of Hawthorne Woods, Ill., have spent the last few weeks going over the roles and responsibilities of the job.
"I feel like I have a greater responsibility to set my brother up for success, to ensure he knows and understands the operations taking place in our area of responsibility," explained Michael Milas. "If I leave anything out, there could be massive repercussions."
"Yeah, mom won't like it," Paul chimed in, and the two brothers laughed.
Michael finally conceded that, as the older brother by two and a half years, avoiding their mother's disapproval is another motivation to do a good job with the handover. "She definitely wouldn't like that. Especially since both of us are over here at the same time."
The Milas family is no stranger to military service. Their father served in the Army as an infantry officer for 12 years and completed his own combat tour in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. Both grandfathers also served in the Lithuanian army; one served during World War I and one between the two great wars. And while both brothers spent the last few years in the Army as pilots, Michael flies the AH-64 Apache and Paul flies the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, this deployment is a little different for their family.
"Usually when one of us is gone, one is home," said Michael. "Now, all three of us are gone and that triples the anxiety, the nerves, and the emotions."
Michael said three because his wife, U.S. Army Capt. Neroliza Quiles, originally from Orlando, Fla., is deployed to nearby Jalalabad.
Quiles is the company commander of Echo Troop, 317 Cavalry, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.
Once the transfer of authority between the 3rd CAB and 10th CAB is complete, Michael and Neroliza return to home station at Savannah, Ga., while Paul remains in Bagram for the next year to continue the mission of the battle captain. For now, the brothers are enjoying the time together.
"This is the most time we've spent together in the last eight years," said Paul. "It's been great just to spend the last few weeks doing the left seat, right seat (relief in place)."
He offers this advice to other siblings who might find themselves in a similar position: "Put aside the brotherly thing and teach and mentor like you would anyone else. But a little bit more because they're your blood relation."