'Togetherness' in Wartime

A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter similar to the two that crash Monday Feb. 12, 2001 in Hawaii, takes off at Rinas Airport in Tirana, Albania, Monday May 3, 1999. Seven soldiers were killed Monday when two Army Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime exercise on the North Shore of Oahu, across the island from Honolulu, said Capt. Richard Soo, of the Honolulu Fire Department. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sergeant Angela Stafford) AP

Most soldiers leave behind husbands or wives when they are deployed, but for Capt. Gretchen Cahill and her husband, Chief Warrant Officer Paul Cahill, togetherness is flying Blackhawk choppers in the 12th Aviation Brigade.

The Cahills have been married for four years. They don't have children, but they did have to find relatives to "adopt" their two cats during their Middle Eastern deployment. The two met at advanced Army flight school, where CWO Cahill was Gretchen's instructor.

The two are serving in the same brigade, thanks to a program called "Married Army Couples Program" (MACP). This program serves dual-military spouses by considering them for assignment together to establish a joint household while fulfilling the mission of the Army. Currently there are 21,710 soldiers enlisted and enrolled in this program.

The couple never flies together in the same aircraft, but do get to see each other an hour or so every day.

Capt. Cahill says, "We're very happy we got stationed together. In this type of environment, it's nice that we're able to see each other every once in awhile. It's still stressful, though, because we're both working our job and off doing other things. So we don't get to spend couple time together like when we're at home, spend a weekend together or have dinner together. It's not quite the same, eating an MRE on the end of a cot after a hard day of work."

CWO Cahill says, of having his wife in the military, "Well, I'll admit. Until I got married to a woman in the military, I had a lot of reservations about women in the military. I thought maybe they couldn't do the same job or perform as well... but she can do the same job. She goes through the same training. She's very prepared to do what she does.

"So," he concludes, "I'm happy to have women in general on the front lines with us. But of course a lot of the guys give me a lot of crap about it. But I have to tell then that when we have those scud alerts. When we're doing a convoy and we're taking small arms fire, you don't have to worry about your wife, but I have to worry about mine."

Capt. Cahill agrees but says she thinks she would worry more if they were apart. "Right now, we're in a situation where I know what he's going through. I know what missions he's going on. So I at least have firsthand knowledge. Whereas if we were separated I might not know where he was going or what he was doing. So in some areas, I think I might worry less if we're together."

Capt. Cahill says of being in the military, "I'm hoping we can help the people of Iraq, the people of this region, so they can live in peace and have somewhat of a normal life, a normal existence so they are not afraid of their government. Not afraid of the people who are ruling them."

As Blackhawk pilots, the couple flies three basic missions:
  1. General support: Dropping troops and supplies where they need to be and doing reconnaissance.

  2. "Personnel recovery": flying in the teams that rescue downed pilots.

  3. Command and control: specially equipped Blackhawks that serve as aerial command centers for Apaches.


At the end of the interview, The Early Show surprised the couple by allowing them to talk to their families via videophone.
  • Tatiana Morales

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