REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- With every promotion, the Marzan couple has asked each other "What do you think?"
Most often, those promotions have come with Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Savell-Marzan's career. An Army cook turned enlisted aide for general officers, her career has offered plenty of opportunities that have also provided a progressive medical career path for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Victor Marzan.
"I'm where I am in the Army because of her," Marzan said.
"Wherever she goes, I go. She drives the assignments. Because of her special skills, she drives the assignment track. She's promotable right now and that's what's important. Business is business. But with every new assignment that comes along we always talk to each other before we go forward."
They are few and far between, but Soldiers-married-to-Soldiers has proven to be a successful formula for those who have the flexibility within their military occupational specialty that allows them to be stationed together. In the case of the Marzan couple, both have broad specialties required at all Army installations and in theater, and that allow the Army to place them in joint domicile assignments. Currently, Savell-Marzan is serving as the enlisted aide to Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Space and Missile Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, while Marzan serves as a medic for the same organization tracking the medical readiness of its Soldiers located throughout the world.
There are more than 21,000 dual military couples serving in the Army, according to the Human Resources Command. At any given time, about 80 percent of these married dual military couples are assigned within 100 miles of each other.
The challenges and benefits of a Soldier married to a Soldier weren't even a part of the consideration when the Marzan couple met. In August 1997, the two -- he going from Fort Drum, N.Y., to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and she going from her advanced individual training to the same installation -- met through friends while waiting for a van in the Honolulu Airport.
"We were stuck there for 10 hours," Marzan said.
"Two of my buddies from AIT were on his flight. So we kind of all hung out together," added Savell-Marzan.
During their time at the airport, Savell-Marzan mentioned renting a car for the weekend and checking out the island. Marzan didn't hesitate to help her with directions.
"I graduated from high school in Hawaii," said Marzan, who as a boy moved around with his family as they followed his father's Army career as an infantryman. "I told her 'I know Hawaii like the back of my hand. I can show you around.' There's a saying that people leave Hawaii either married or divorced."
It wasn't long before they realized they would be leaving the island as a married couple.
"It was kind of love at first sight for me," Marzan said, who is a personable, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. "She is a real caring person. She's three years older than me and she just seemed more responsible to me. She is really great at taking care of other people. And that was one of the things that attracted me to her."
They married on April 1, 1998.
"It was an out-of-the-blue thing," Savell-Marzan said. "He said 'You want to get married.' I said 'OK.'"
"She had just won Cook of the Year, so she was in her Class A's," Marzan recalled. "I had just got off 24-hour duty. So, I put on my Class A's and we went downtown to the Health Department and got married at the eternal flame with Keimo, who was either a justice of the peace or a Sunni wrestler, and two friends as witnesses."
The next day, Marzan went back to the field and Savell-Marzan was left with completing the housing paperwork for their first home together. The couple also enrolled in the Married Army Couples Program, which helps to ensure Soldiers married to Soldiers are considered for joint domicile assignments.
"The Army does try their best to put us together," Marzan said. "And it's easier for us because everyone needs a cook and everyone needs a medic."
They left Hawaii together in August 2000, with two cocker spaniels in their household. Although they have always been stationed together, they have been separated through the years by deployments and training. At times, it seems they have been like ships that pass in the night.
Their first assignment in the continental U.S. took them to Fort Bliss, Texas. Three months after they arrived, Marzan deployed to Kuwait for six months with a Patriot battalion. He returned in June 2001, but then in October 2002 Savell-Marzan went to advanced leadership training and in November 2002 Marzan deployed for eight months to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just a few months later, in January 2003, Savell-Marzan deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Patriot battalion of the 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade led by then Col. Heidi Brown (now a major general at the Missile Defense Agency).
"We came back the same day, two hours apart," Savell-Marzan said. "My general officer came up to me as I was getting off the bus and said 'I just saw your husband.' I thought maybe something had happened to him. But then he said 'No, he just landed, two hours ago.'"
With no children to worry about, simultaneous deployments did not involve a family plan. But the couple did have dogs -- four at the time -- that relatives cared for while they were away.
In June 2004, the couple moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where Savell-Marzan managed a dining facility and Marzan worked at the hospital. In early 2006, after shoulder surgery, Savell-Marzan deployed with the 5th Engineers to Iraq while Marzan went to the senior leader course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Again, family was called in to take care of their dogs.
When she returned from Iraq, Savell-Marzan attended the senior leader course. While there, she was recruited for the Army's Enlisted Aide Program. Her first job in the program took her to Fort Rucker, where she was an aide to Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett.
As an aide, Savell-Marzan manages her general officer's household, taking care of everything from making sure the appliances are in good working order to ensuring that uniforms are ready to wear to preparing and serving working meals at the home.
"The funny part about following an aide is that she can get some really interesting jobs," Marzan said.
"When we were on a house hunting trip at Fort Rucker, she took me to the headquarters building to meet the sergeant major. While I was there, I learned they wanted me to go to flight medical school. Then, they asked 'How would you like to go to SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school?' I looked at my wife and then I told them "No, sir. My 'hooah' days were over a long time ago.'"
But Fort Rucker needed a medic at its SERE school, and the medic had to go through SERE training to serve in that capacity. Before long, Marzan found himself in SERE training.
"I lost 21 pounds going through that," he said.
While Savell-Marzan was getting up to speed with the responsibilities of her new job, Marzan was able to take college classes and get his associate degree.
The couple's next assignment took them to Germany, where Savell-Marzan was the aide to Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe.
"Originally, she turned the job down. We had four dogs and we didn't want to leave them," Marzan said.
"But, when they said I could take our dogs overseas with us, I took the job," Savell-Marzan added. "That turned out to be a real busy assignment because I went from being an aide for a two-star to being an aide for a four-star."
For Marzan, the move also meant a new job opportunity, this time as the medical operations non-commissioned officer in charge at U.S. Army Europe headquarters.
Just over a year ago, the couple were assigned to Redstone Arsenal and SMDC/ARSTRAT.
"We knew about SMDC, but not really about Redstone Arsenal," Marzan said.
"It's a unique experience working for SMDC because the command is all over the world. But the best part is the command here in Huntsville is involved in a lot of community service and is committed to getting its leadership out to see the Soldiers in all different areas."
The couple have enjoyed their transitions through Army assignments and taking on new challenges.
"It's always good to move," Marzan said. "I'm an Army brat, so it doesn't bother me to move.
"The best part about being married to a Soldier is that she understands what it means to be deployed. She accepts if that I'm deployed or if I'm in the field, I'm in the field. She knows there are no ifs, ands or buts. The only question is 'When?'"
He believes his marriage is stronger because they both wear the uniform.
"It takes the stress out of the situation that can happen when you don't know what the other is doing," Marzan said. "We both understand the job and what the job requires."
Their partnership goes well beyond the job to include the duties of running their household.
"She cooks at work. I cook at home most of the time. Or, the one who gets home first does the cooking. But I always do the dishes," he said.
And Marzan is convinced that his wife has had a big impact on the kind of man and Soldier he is today.
"I might not have ever had a staff job if it wasn't for her," he said. "I wouldn't have had SERE training if it wasn't for her. I finished college because of her. I just finished my bachelor's degree in health care administration while stationed here at SMDC."
The couple agree that being married and in the military together is a positive experience.
"If you know what each other does and you know what types of career opportunities there are for each other's MOS and you are understanding about where those opportunities will take the both of you, then it will work. Just like with any working couple, you have to be supportive of each other," Marzan said.
"I am supportive of her career choices, and understand that she has to work on weekends and her schedule revolves around the commanding general's schedule. And wherever we end up going with her career, there is always a job for me. Yes, I might complain a bit, but that's just life."