Jessica and Blaine Siepelmeir of Lincoln, Nebraska, continued Saturday with advanced training in preparation for their deployment with 329th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB) in Parsons Sept. 22 — only two and a half months after their marriage.
“They’re heading to Afghanistan for their honeymoon,” Capt. Alex Borgardts said.
“We planned for our wedding to be Sept. 21, but we will be gone, so we moved it up to July,” Jessica said.
The two met through serving in the U.S. Army Reserves in Beatrice, Nebraska.
“I would have been in three years at that time,” Blaine said.
“I was in two,” Jessica said.
Neither imagined they would fall for another citizen soldier, but six years ago that is what happened.
In his civilian job, Blaine is a utility line technician working on power lines for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska. Jessica, a certified dental assistant, just graduated nursing school and is preparing to take her boards this week.
Both said they joined the Reserve to change their lives for the better.
“I looked at it as job security. When I first came in, I was doing a dead-end job of construction. You don’t really go anywhere with that. I didn’t have a degree at the time. I didn’t have nothing. I didn’t know where I would end up. I thought joining the Army, I can go places and see places,” Blaine said.
Jessica said she was influenced by her brother, who is in the Marine Corps.
“I watched how the military changed him. He was active duty. I didn’t want to do it full time. I wanted to do school and stuff, too. That’s what made me kind of choose the Reserves,” Jessica said.
The depth of the impact on their lives was not anticipated.
“When I came in, I never thought I’d like it. Your first three or four years kind of suck, because you’re the grunt, but the more and more years go by, I’m, like, ‘Gosh. I love this. I might stay past 20.’ My mind’s on 20, because you can retire. I want to put the effort in to get the retirement, but I might even stay in longer. The benefits are great and as long as you fight for yourself, the Army will help you out — great health insurance, school. It doesn’t always cater to you, but for school, it’s fantastic. You have to do your own end of it, but school is an outstanding benefit.”
“I didn’t know I would be on my second contract,” Jessica said. “I love the camaraderie that we all have, the relationships with all my friends. That’s important to me.”
“It’s a second family for us,” Blaine said. “I look forward to coming down here even though it’s a six-hour drive. I enjoy coming down here for three days, two, or sometimes four, or sometimes 14. I enjoy it. It’s a long ways away from home, but everyone gets along.”
Preparing to ship out as a married couple is a little overwhelming for the two, they said, as they are not leaving their spouse behind to manage the details of everyday life. The responsibilities of home, utilities and other assets is having to be delegated to other family members for the year they are gone.
“We’re kind of stressed about that,” Blaine said. “It will be in good hands for us. but it sucks knowing your other half is not back doing what needs done. I’ve got to rely on my mom. She’s got to rely on her mom, whatever.”
They feel fortunate they have strong family support, making deployment a little easier in some aspects.
“For me, I’m a woman, and it’s hard a lot emotionally, I think. Stuff could happen in the states, but when we’re both going to combat, it’s different emotionally. For my mom, her daughter and son-in-law are both going and vice versa for his family,” Jessica said.
Borgardts, who just returned from overseas on 2017 and is heading back, said regardless of the security part of it, it is a different environment in Afghanistan.
“Our NATO allies are there, the French, the Germans, the Brits, the Australians — we’re all in the same location. There is different types of aircraft going in and out. There’s local nationals, there’s contractors, there’s Department of Defense civilians. We’re all kind of collectively going after the same effort. It’s an interesting thing. All of our soldiers will be armed at all times and have protective equipment. We take safety and security as the number one priority. But with that is a heightened sense of awareness. You are on guard because you are in a different environment with a lot of different people. We know the uniforms, we know the ranks, but at anytime, you have to be prepared. That’s what a lot of this preparatory training is for, to make sure we are in the right frame of mind. It’s definitely a different game when you get there.”
“Coming up to the day of deployment is the hardest,” Jessica said. “Once we get into that, then with that heightened sense of awareness, it gets easier.”
“The hardest part of being a Reserve soldier is playing both sides — being a civilian and being a soldier,” she said.
It is hard on the soldiers. It is hard on the families. It is hard on their employers. Each is making a sacrifice for the common goal.
“There is a lot of support, but it is a difficult task,” Borgardts said.