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'Mil-to-mil' knows no distance

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Denise Nevins
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
This is the first in a series of four articles on mil-to-mil relationships, the struggles the Airmen face and how they overcome adversity.

When two people are married, it is usually expected that the spouse comes before anything or anybody else. However, things can change when both have made a commitment to serve their country through military service.

Many married servicemembers have a mutual understanding that the needs of the military come before personal needs. Sometimes, one of the biggest stressors military-to-military couples face is separation.

"I was deployed to a then disclosed location about two weeks after September 11, 2001, and one day after my job was done, I was sitting outside my tent listening to my CD player, trying to stay cool," said Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Sharpe, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant. "That was pretty much all you could do out there."

"[When] I looked up, I saw her just standing there," he said, recalling the first time he saw his wife.

Months later when their deployments were over, it was time for them to head back to their respective bases.

At the time, Sharpe was stationed at Travis Air Force Base, California, and his wife, Master Sgt. Amy Sharpe, 28th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, was stationed at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

They would usually take turns flying to each other's base every three months or so to visit, according to Phillip. Then, after about a year and a half, the two were married. Two months later, they were finally stationed together.

"The separation was a little easier when we weren't married simply because we weren't living together," Amy said. "We didn't depend on each other the way we do now being married."

Along with juggling busy schedules, children, a house and other marital responsibilities, they had to deal with loneliness while the other was deployed.

"The person deployed has the better end of the bargain," Amy laughed. "They have a specific mission and a job to focus on while the person back home has to do their job along with all the other ins and outs of taking care of things."

Phillip added deployments can be especially difficult if you have children.

"There's just some things that mom does differently, so when I do the same tasks, my kids usually respond with, 'that's not how mom does it,'" Phillip said. "Children feel the stress of deployments just as much as the spouse does."

Along with the normal stressors that come with being mil-to-mil, there can also be a situation where both spouses could get called to deploy.

"The tricky thing about mil-to-mil relationships is the issue that you may be getting called to deploy at the same time," Amy said. "That's when it becomes an issue that needs to be brought up to your leadership."

At the end of the day, after the stress of dealing with separations and even the challenges at home, they found the most important thing was to keep the relationship strong through simple communication.

"I could be having a really bad day, then I get the chance to talk to Amy and hear her voice, it's like a weight being lifted off my shoulders," Phillip said.