Story by 1st Lt Rachel Fikes
Regional Command East
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Feb. 6, 2013) — As the Chinook gradually descended into the small valley, he sucked in a deep breath and leaned against the chilly interior of the helicopter. He held his M4 rifle closer to his chest. He gazed through the small circular window to take in the mountain formations that were blanketed by layers of rich orange, crimson and indigo as dusk fell. The tranquil scenery did nothing to calm his nerves as he anxiously awaited the landing at his new home —Forward Operating Base Gamberi, in eastern Afghanistan.
As he exited the helicopter, the wind expelled by the rotor blades pushed him forward -- a good thing, because the weight of his rucksack, duffel bag and assault pack made forward movement difficult. He found his way to the room that he would share with eight other Soldiers for the duration of his deployment. He dropped his gear and turned to find his bunk mate standing behind him. They shook hands and, and before they even introduced themselves, realized from their nametags that they had a special connection.
Most Soldiers who deploy for the first time envision running through sand, sleeping in tents, and eating MREs. Running into a family member is not usually part of the vision. After comparing family backgrounds, Pfc. Raphael Fields and Sgt. Carlos Fields realized they are third cousins.
“We started talking and just couldn’t believe it. We are both from Hardeeville, S.C., which is a pretty small town, and it took us deploying to Afghanistan to finally meet,” said 22-year-old Raphael, a radio operator for B Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
While Hardeeville is 4.3 square miles with a population of less than 3,000, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, deployed 1,400 Soldiers, and spread them across two provinces in eastern Afghanistan. With these numbers, the odds of these cousins being bunkmates are pretty slim; yet, it happened.
“We do have a huge family,” said 31-year-old Carlos, an aviation operations specialist for 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. “We may have met at a family reunion when we were young and just don’t remember. But still, meeting here? It’s bizarre.”
The two both work night shifts and usually get to catch up during breakfast.
Still amazed at their chance encounter, the two cousins are using this deployment to get to know each other. They plan on spending some quality family time together when they go home.
“We discovered that we both have a love for seafood. We definitely plan on eating some and hanging out when we redeploy,” said Carlos.
“The Army has a way of bringing people together. It really is a small world out there,” said Raphael.
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — After a chance encounter at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, U.S. Army Sgt. Carlos Fields (left) hugs cousin, Pfc. Raphael Fields, both of Hardeeville, S.C. Both are currently deployed to Laghman Province, Afghanistan, with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.(Photo by U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rachel Fikes, B Co., 4th BSTB, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.)