Brothers & sisters in arms

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Brother and sister team, Army Sgt. Shandy Erisman, of Little Rock, Ark., and Army Sgt. Abbi Erisman, of Mountain Home, Ark., both serve as Arkansas National Guardsmen together in Iraq with 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment.

“We pretty well knew we were going to be [deployed] together,” older brother Shandy said.

While they said they were comforted by the idea of deploying together, not everyone in their family shared their optimism. “I know Mom hates it,” Abbi said. “She has her oldest [Shandy], and then her baby going to war, to combat, especially [in] an infantry unit where we’re mechanics.”

The unit’s mission is to escort convoys throughout Iraq’s Anbar province. They have escorted more than 40,000 trucks carrying nearly 100 million gallons of high-grade fuel in a nine-month period. Their efforts sustained coalition operations throughout western Iraq, Army Lt. Col. John Stewart, their battalion commander, said.

The unit’s military vehicles traveled a combined total of 2.6 million miles and stayed in working order, thanks in part to the Erisman siblings, Stewart added.

Shandy remained at the motor pool, turning wrenches, while Abbi escorted convoys with a wrecker, a truck designed to recover vehicles. She pulled Humvees out of soft sand -- what she calls “moon dust” -- and repaired broken-down trucks.

In between missions, the siblings said, they found it helpful to have someone available for moral support, even if their schedules didn’t allow them to spend a lot of time together.

“We would see each other in passing, a friendly nod or something of that nature to keep our spirits up,” Shandy said.

Abbi was there for Shandy when his best friend died of cancer back home, and Shandy was there when Abbi needed professional advice from one noncommissioned officer to another -- even though she technically outranks her older brother, Abbi said with a smile.

“I’m actually really proud of her, for everything she’s done out here,” Shandy said. “Stepping out and going on the road, I’m very proud of her and the things she’s accomplish­ed.”

After her deployment, Abbi said, she plans to return to her factory job making hydraulic hoses.

As for her brother, “I’m looking forward to going home and just spending time with the wife,” Shandy said. Shandy and his wife married about a week before his deployment.

And back home, just like in Iraq, brother and sister will continue to serve their country side by side.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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