USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea - Damage Controlman 2nd Class Cassidy Cole, and Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Christopher Cole, found themselves underway in the same amphibious ready group.
Most military families are faced with the challenges of long periods of time away from each other, uncertain schedules, and conflicting duty stations. For Cassidy Cole and her younger brother Christopher Cole, both from Silverdale, Wash., these challenges would be the remedy to a classic sibling rivalry.
Damage Controlman 2nd Class Cassidy Cole, assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), and Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Christopher Cole, assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), found themselves underway in the same amphibious readiness group (ARG) during their Western Pacific deployment even after going their own separate ways after high school.
From grade school to teenage years the brother and sister pair was more dueling than duo; one thing they both could agree on is they would spend most of their days together arguing about anything and everything, said Christopher.
Cassidy reflected that during their spare time they would hang out with their own friends away from each other.
"He was two years younger than me, so he was the annoying little brother when we were in high school," said Cassidy.
As with most siblings growing up together, Christopher added that Cassidy was not the most pleasant older sister even when they were teenagers; getting along and having a closer relationship required finishing high school and moving their separate ways.
Upon graduating high school, Cassidy moved away from home to join the work force as a receptionist at an acupuncture clinic. Her brother Christopher decided to go to a local community college but found that the continuum of tests, teachers, and desks were not quite right for him.
"I didn't want to be stuck in classes all day," said Christopher. "I had done that for 13 years and finally I had the chance to do what I wanted with my life."
As their adult life started it revealed that it may have the same plan in store for both of them. Cassidy was already at a crossroads herself, bringing her to the same conclusion that her current situation wasn't quite right either.
"I did not want to work as a receptionist full time," said Cassidy. "There was no way I was going to do that forever."
In moments like this Cassidy and Christopher did what most young adults would have done; they looked to their family for guidance. In this case all things pointed to service in the United States Navy.
"The Navy is in our blood. We were raised as Navy brats," said Christopher. "My father, Andrew Cole, retired as a Master Chief with 22 years of Naval service, and my Uncle is still serving as a Chief Warrant Officer 5."
Their father raised them by the Navy core values of honor, courage, and commitment.
"He had a presence about him that just demanded respect," said Christopher. "We never questioned him, and he inspired both of us to follow in the family footsteps."
Taking the first step, Cassidy was the first one to visit a recruiter and sign her contract to serve in the Navy as a Damage Controlman. This motivated Christopher to follow on the same path, but he chose to serve as an Information Systems Technician.
With contracts signed, they were fortunate enough to leave for Recruit Training Command (RTC) in Great Lakes, Ill. together on June 8, 2010 with the pride of carrying on family tradition. Cassidy and Christopher were placed into different divisions, but trained, slept, and ate in the same building. This fortunate placement of the related recruits made it possible for them to see each other in passageways and occasionally in the galley.
"It was great to have my brother going through the same thing I was; he made it easier to handle the eight weeks of boot camp," said Cassidy.
After graduating from RTC and their in-rate technical training courses at A-School, they found out that they received orders to ships home ported at Naval Base San Diego. Christopher would take orders as an Information Systems Technician aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and Cassidy as a Damage Controlman aboard New Orleans.
"My brother arrived in San Diego first, so he was already set up with an apartment when I arrived," said Cassidy. "It was nice because I didn't know anyone, I spent a lot of my time at his place."
The two became a lot closer as time pushed on. In January 2011, Christopher deployed aboard Germantown. Then in April the same year Germantown was scheduled to hull swapped with the Harpers Ferry in Sasebo, Japan. After the evolution, Christopher was on his way back to San Diego aboard a different ship.
Nearly a year after Christopher's homecoming to San Diego aboard Harpers Ferry, they found out that their two commands would set out on a Western Pacific deployment together as part of the Boxer Amphibious Readiness Group.
"Finding out that we would deploy together made leaving much easier," said Cassidy.
Since the deployment began they have emailed each other frequently to update each other on how they were handling the cruise.
"It worked out great. We could always talk to each other about any problems we were facing on each other's ship," said Cassidy. "We always tried to write at least once a week."
One of those conversations would be about Cassidy's decision to stay Navy.
On January 24, Cassidy signed her reenlistment papers for two more years of naval service aboard New Orleans. She had one special request, and that was that her brother Christopher attend the ceremony aboard her ship in the Arabian Gulf.
Cassidy and Christopher's chain of command approved the request. New Orleans placed a rigid hull inflatable boat in the water to go alongside Harpers Ferry and pick up her brother.
"Our two commands were able to bring my brother over from the Harpers Ferry for my reenlistment," said Cassidy. "It was great to see him again, and it meant the world to have him there with me."
"It was probably one of the best experiences I will ever have in the Navy," said Cassidy.
"It was amazing to be at my sister's reenlistment," said Christopher. "I was so proud of her."
Since the reenlistment they've been fortunate to share a port call when both New Orleans and Harpers Ferry moored together in Manama, Bahrain.
"It has been great to see my sister a few times this deployment," said Christopher. "Now I'm trying to see if I can go aboard New Orleans for the tiger cruise back to San Diego that way we can pull in together."
"Going through all the challenges of the military with my brother has made it so much better," said Cassidy. "My family has a strong military history, and I'm proud to have my brother beside me to carry on our family legacy."
New Orleans and Harpers Ferry are deployed as part of the Boxer ARG, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet area of responsibility.