JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Choosing to serve the nation is an honor and a privilege for many, although it is not without its hardships, such as long hours, deployments to faraway places, and time away from loved ones.
For one married couple, Army Staff Sgt. James Owens and Army Sgt. Brook Owens, both with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, their desire to continue serving the Army was on display here July 10 as they chose to re-enlist together.
Army Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, 7th Infantry Division commanding general, said the opportunity to re-enlist the couple was an honor and a privilege.
"As a husband-and-wife team serving our nation, it is very humbling. … You're part of the less than 1 percent of the American population that do what we do,” Ferrell said. “[That's why] it's even more important to know that we have soldiers like you that are willing to carry on the tradition.”
Ferrell had some words of wisdom for the couple gained from his 30-year military career.
“Set your goals wherever you want to go,” he told them. “That's the thing about the re-enlistment -- it opens doors. Open those doors and be willing to walk through and accept what you want to accept."
James, a Sparks, Nev., native, is a training room noncommissioned officer and has served the Army for eight years. This is his third re-enlistment. When the time comes around again, he said, he will re-enlist for "indefinite" status, which means he will not need to re-enlist again before he retires.
For Brook, a Grand Junction, Colo., native who serves as a welder, this was only her second re-enlistment, which will bring her out to the mid-career point. Both said they plan to go the distance and retire after 20 years.
"We want to try and go until we retire, and at the same time, we do want to start a family," James said.
The soldiers met five years ago when they were in the same class at the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Carson, Colorado. Since then, they have been inseparable, even deploying to Afghanistan together in 2009 when they were both with 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson.
The couple resides in Nisqually Valley and re-enlisted for four years and the option to stay here.
“We bought a house last year right after a Yakima Training Center [rotation], and we want to stick around the house for a few years before we leave," James said.
James said he plans to continue his military education and is striving to attend Master Gunner School in the hopes of one day becoming the brigade master gunner. Brook is working on online courses and said she hopes to attend Advanced Leaders Course in a few months.
Both NCOs said the re-enlistment offered the opportunity not only to reaffirm their dedication to the Army and nation, but also to do so as a couple that has weathered many hardships together.