Spartan father, daughter deployed together
Spartan Soldiers Pfc. Maeyamonique Barnes and her father, Army Staff Sgt. Albert Barnes, enjoy a moment together during their deployment. (Courtesy photo)
Posted 10/12/2012 Updated 10/12/2012
by Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
4-25th ABCT Public Affairs
10/12/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A unique relationship exists within U.S. Army Alaska. It is a relationship which extends beyond the rank and file. It is a relationship between father and daughter.
Pfc. Maeyamonique Barnes was surprised to have orders to Alaska, and when she was assigned as a military police officer with the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, she joined forces with her father as a Spartan paratrooper.
Her dad, who will soon be redeploying from Afghanistan, is Army Staff Sgt. Albert Barnes, a unit supply sergeant with the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4-25th ABCT.
Private Barnes was initially assigned to the 545th Military Police Company at JBER, but when she learned there was a small platoon of MPs with the 4-25th ABCT, she requested through her chain of command and chain of concern to be reassigned so she could be in the same brigade as her dad and deploy with him to Afghanistan.
The units worked together to reassign her to the 4-25th ABCT, and late last year the father and daughter team deployed together. But, due to the vastness of the brigade's area of operations, the Barnes' were at separate bases for the bulk of their deployment.
Private Barnes was stationed at a small Combat Outpost in the Khost Province of Afghanistan, while her dad was stationed at Bagram Air Base and Camp
She said it was difficult to speak with her dad directly, because the only phones they could use to contact each other were in the tactical operations centers. This required extensive coordination, so they primarily used e-mails and Facebook messages to communicate.
Their family was stricken with loss in January of this year when Sergeant Barnes' mother passed away. Both Soldiers went back home to Illinois to grieve with family.
He took emergency leave for the funeral, and she took an early rest and recuperation a couple of weeks later.
Dad and daughter were able to visit each other while she transitioned through the movement phases of R&R leave at Bagram Air Base.
She said because of her grandmother's passing, seeing her family was "bittersweet," and even a couple of weeks after the funeral there were still a lot of family members there to make sure her grandfather was okay.
While at Bagram, the Barnes' spent a lot of time together and even did PT together. She said it was funny because he would always try to "smoke" her. When she got back from leave, he asked her how it was, and then told her to do pushups. He even had her do elevated pushups, she said.
"It's all in good fun," she said.
While they were at Bagram, Sergeant Barnes bought his daughter new boots to patrol in, and they spent quality time together drinking smoothies and dining on pizza.
She said having her dad deploy with her made it easier because she did not feel all alone in a combat zone halfway around the world. She said it was good to have her dad there because she could communicate well with him and they could empathize with each other.
"He can listen, but also give me something back, it helped me out a lot," she said.
She said a big challenge for them was always being worried about each other.
"He was at Bagram where it is so big, that sometimes when they are attacked, they don't even know it, but my base was so small that every attack was a big attack," she said. "I think it was more stressful for him than it was for me because I knew I was okay, but he didn't."
She said during a mission last December the truck she was in was hit by an improvised explosive device, and after the medical screening at Salerno Forward Operating Base, she told her dad about it.
"Well Dad, I got my Combat Action Badge today," she told him.
"We only had some minor scrapes and bruises, but I told my dad about it and he was really concerned. He was asking all kinds of questions like: Are you okay? Is everybody okay? What happened? Did you guys catch the attacker? So that's when I decided I would not tell him everything," she said.
"Even though he is a noncommissioned officer in the Army and he has been there and done that, he is still my dad, so it's not like it is some other Soldier getting hurt - it's his daughter, so it's not an Army thing anymore. It's his concern with his family. It's personal," she said.
"I think the most stress I had was the thought of should I tell him or should I just be quiet about this one, because I don't want him to worry more," she said.
She said most things did not warrant the worry they would have caused had she told him about them, like the times her outpost came under attack.
"I will not tell him we got attacked today. It was not that big of a deal. I will wait until we get back, then the stories will come out in our conversations together, but for now, while we are both out here, I don't want him to be worried like that," she said.
She said when her unit suffered two losses one day in an IED explosion, her father was in angst because he knew two Soldiers in her unit were killed, but didn't know who they were. She said he had to wait until information flowed through the proper channels first, and because of the blackout, she was not able to contact him to let him know she was okay.
She said her dad was saddened by the loss of the Soldiers, but was relieved to learn it was not her.
The two had one last time to visit each other during her transition for redeployment back to JBER. She had a stopover at Salerno, and because her dad is a supply sergeant, he would often travel through Salerno to various bases on his way to transfer supplies and equipment.
She messaged her dad to let him know she was there, and he was able to schedule his mission to fit a stop in Salerno to see her.
While resting in her stopover billet, she heard a knock on the door. She made it to the door, opened it up and there was her dad.
"I was so surprised, I just jumped on him like I was 5 years old again and was hugging him and crying because it was about six months since I last saw him in Bagram!" she said.
They had a long conversation that day about the whole deployment.
The visit was short due to the ongoing mission, and he boarded an outgoing flight later that evening. She helped him carry his heavy bags of equipment to the aircraft, and that was the last she saw of him since redeploying.
Sergeant Barnes is scheduled to return in early October.
Both troopers will stay busy after redeployment as they continue to train and serve together; they plan to attend the Basic Airborne Course soon. She is going in October and he is scheduled for a class in January.