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Not just brothers in arms but father and son
Rincon father, son Guardsmen serving together in Iraq
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Sgt. Stephen Sprouse, a scout; his father, Maj. Bobbie Sprouse, executive officer for 3/278 Armored Cavalry Squadron; Command Sgt. Maj. John F. Cartwright Sr., command sergeant major for 3/278th ACR; and his son, Staff Sgt. John F. Cartwright Jr., a scout, are all part of 3/278th ACR, Tennessee Army National Guard. The father-son pair take a break during a mission in Taji, Iraq. - photo by Photo courtesy of Maj. Bobbie Sprouse

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq—Many soldiers feel as though their deployed sisters and brothers in arms are their family because they witness what friends and family cannot see at home.

For some Tennessee National Guardsmen, family love within a unit reaches beyond camaraderie because they’re actually family. Many of the guardsmen with 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment are deployed with family members.

Maj. Bobbie Sprouse, the executive officer for 3/278th ACR and Sgt. Stephen Sprouse, a cavalry scout, also with 3/278 ACR, are one of the many family members sharing a deployment together. The father-son team, both out of Rincon, is currently stationed at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, in Tikrit, Iraq.

Originally, Sgt. Sprouse was not part of Maj. Sprouse’s unit. He transferred units after hearing 3rd Squadron was deploying so he could serve with his father.

“I’m glad he deployed with us,” Maj. Sprouse said. “The way the National Guard rotations work, he was going to deploy at some point and time. Now, I know when he is (on base) and safe. That’s the greatest benefit I get out of it.”

Although they work separate shifts, they still find ways to meet and spend quality time together.

“He’ll leave notes on my board in my office,” Maj. Sprouse said. “If he needs to pick up some stuff at the store, he’ll leave a note and we’ll pair up and go.”

Maj. Sprouse jokingly added that his son sometimes buys him lunch because “majors don’t make much money,” prompting a quick smile from Sgt. Sprouse.

For Sgt. Sprouse, the benefits of having a deployed parent help provide a support system when times are hard. One instance caused the Sprouses to lean on each other when they received a Red Cross message requiring them both to take emergency leave early in the deployment.

They needed to support their wife and mother, who had just lost her father.

“It was really good to have him there,” Sgt. Sprouse said. “It was a lot easier for both of us to deal with it. It happened at an unfortunate time, but the fact that we were both here at the same time made it easier.

“He’s here, you don’t have to worry about making a phone call, there’s always somebody right in your immediate family down the street,” Sgt. Sprouse added.

Overall, both Sprouses agree that serving a deployment is an honorable experience, but serving one with a family member makes the experience a treasure.

“It’s different, and it’s something that we can take back with us,” Sgt. Sprouse said. “How many people get to say that they went over (to Iraq) and came back … and they did it with their dad?”