By Sgt. 1st Class Felix A. FigueroaJanuary 28, 2011
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The war on terrorism is the longest military campaign that American forces have been involved in. As a result, service members have been separated from their Families for months, even years at a time. However, for one 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier, her assignment to the Fort Drum-based unit and deployment here provided an opportunity to reunite with her brother.
Capt. Jessica Russell, a finance officer assigned to the division's Intelligence and Sustainment Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, had not seen her brother, Sgt. Josiah Russell, in nearly seven months. Before then, the Oswego natives had not seen each other in almost two years because of his Iraq deployment and her assignment as a basic training company commander.
In a casual conversation with Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Rocco regarding her brother, his upcoming re-enlistment and being deployed to the same country, Russell said she mentioned wanting to see him and being a part of his momentous occasion before he redeployed back to Fort Drum.
"To be totally honest, I didn't think anything would come out of the whole conversation with the sergeant major," she said.
Meanwhile, in northern Afghanistan's Balkh Province, Josiah Russell thought of the possibility of coming down and seeing his big sister Jessica, but he said his busy schedule always dictated otherwise. The 23-year-old sergeant serves as a member of the Quick Reaction Security Force at Camp Mike Spann in Mazar-e-Sharif. When he is not pulling security out on patrol, he serves in the camp's fire department and is preparing to redeploy back to the United States.
"I just came back from a mission when my platoon sergeant approached me and said I had to go see (Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Chepenik) with my squad leader. I'll admit, I was a bit concerned and didn't know what to think," said Russell, a combat engineer assigned to Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
Back in Kandahar, Rocco gathered information from Jessica Russell and contacted his old Fort Drum neighbor, Command Sgt. Maj. Philip Chepenik.
"I told him the story about one of our officers having a brother in his unit and how she wanted to re-enlist him before his unit redeployed. He (Chepenik) sent me an e-mail back stating he would work it on his end. A couple of days later, Capt. Russell contacted me, stating that her brother would be coming down on the 20th to re-enlist," Rocco said.
"I was really excited that my brother was coming down and couldn't wait to see him. The sergeants major really came through for us," Russell said.
After meeting with his sergeant major, Josiah Russell was told to pack his bags and head to Kandahar, where he met his sister and spent the next few hours catching up and taking photos to send home to their proud mother, Susan Tarbell, who lives in Oswego.
Approximately five years ago, Jessica Russell, a young Army officer, took her brother, then a farm hand, to their local Army recruitment center and convinced him to join. Once the contract was drawn up, she swore him in.
"I was glad to see my sister," Russell said. "I started to think it wasn't going to be possible to see her out here, but here we are, just like before, her swearing me in again. I wouldn't want it any other way."
The Russells have made the service a family affair. Jessica and Josiah Russell have a brother, Justin, currently serving in the National Guard. Jessica Russell enlisted him as well.
"It's always a great day in the Army when we can re-enlist quality noncommissioned officers. But, to have an older sister re-enlist her younger brother is great for both the Army Family and the Russell Family," Rocco said.
"I am proud of our service. I feel the military is a great institution, allowing many opportunities to excel. I wouldn't want anything else for my Family," Jessica Russell said.