FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Striking the perfect balance between career and family obligations is tough enough for many couples, but when one spouse is a recruiter and the other a drill sergeant, the challenges increase.
Just ask Staff Sgts. Jason and Amy Mitchell. The Fort Jackson couple have spent more than two years juggling the stresses of two of the most demanding jobs in the Army while maintaining a strong marriage and sharing parenting responsibilities for their 16-month-old son, Matthew.
"There's definitely not a lot of personal time," said Amy, a drill sergeant in Company E, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.
"She's up and out the door around four most mornings," said Jason, a recruiter in Rock Hill, who makes the 70-mile drive to his recruiting station and back five days a week. "On a good day, she can pick our son up (from day care), and we can all spend some quality time at the end of the day."
But even on those days, most of the couple's time together is spent in the company of their son with Amy struggling to stay awake. And while there is rarely time for date nights, there is plenty of time for the ordinary stresses of married life -- personality conflicts, divvying up household responsibilities, paying bills, and so on.
So how does the couple make it work? Both Soldiers contend that their dual military status helps, rather than hurts, their relationship.
"Communication and understanding are key," Amy said. "Being married to another Soldier is a lot easier, because you both understand what it is, what it takes to be in this job."
"You're speaking the same language," agreed Jason, joking that being able to share TA-50 (Army-issued equipment) is helpful, too.
The couple have more than career and equipment in common, though. Jason said it is their shared interests, attitudes and backgrounds that form their "base foundation." In the months after they met during a USO concert at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, in 2009, Jason and Amy discovered they shared similar childhood experiences -- his in Michigan City, Ind., hers in New Bedford, Mass. They also bonded over a love of fitness and a goal-oriented career drive.
"It helps when you take the time to get to know a person," Jason said. "Learn their past, learn their five-year plan, go through some problems and see what that person is really like in those situations."
"You have to be adaptable and be able to compromise," Amy added. "Personalities change sometimes, and you have to be able to adapt to that."
Jason said he thinks this flexibility would have been harder to master if they had been younger or new to the Army when they met. When they wed in 2010, both Soldiers were 30 and mature enough to have realistic expectations for their marriage. They said they anticipated they would experience problems and go through rough patches, and they have.
"But no matter what happens, I know that she's going to be my wife, and she knows that I'm going to stick around for her," Jason said. "I have a 72-hour rule. For whatever problem you may be facing, give it 72 hours and things are going to start getting better."
Despite the challenges they have encountered in the past few years, their respective assignments as drill sergeant and recruiter have been beneficial. Once an optical laboratory specialist, Jason found his passion in recruiting and recently converted to become a recruiter permanently.
Amy, meanwhile, has honed and proven her leadership abilities on the trail.
"Drill sergeants have these green books where (Basic Combat Training Soldiers) can write messages to them," Jason said. "I always read those comments, and to see more than 300 people talk about what a good leader she is, what a great mentor she is ... it's touching."
The growth their relationship has experienced during their time in South Carolina will continue to help them as they move into what Jason calls "the next phase." Amy will report to Fort Belvoir, Va., soon to assume duties as a human resource noncommissioned officer in charge. Matthew will go with her, but they don't yet know when Jason will be able to join them. Although they are enrolled in the Army Married Couples Assignment Program, the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion is currently overstrength, so Jason will have to wait until a slot opens before he can be reassigned.
"This is just another stepping stone for us," he said. "We already have a good foundation; now we're adding to it."