FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHANK, Afghanistan (8/12/2012) - U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mica Snell and his brother U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Snell were born and grew up in Derby, Kan. Less than two years apart in age, they went to the same schools at the same time and more often than not, had the same friends. Justin moved to Green Valley, Ariz., when he was 16 and graduated high school there while Mica stayed and graduated from Derby High. After high school, Mica attended two years of college before joining the Army in early 2001. After Justin graduated he went to the University of Arizona for three years.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mica Snell (right), Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and his brother U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Justin Snell, scout platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Forward Operating Base Shank, July 10, 2012. The brothers ran into each other when the 173rd took over responsibility of Afghanistan's Logar and Wardak Provinces from 3rd BCT, 1 AD. Courtesy Photo
| ||When Mica joined the Army, he enlisted as a PATRIOT Launching Station Enhanced Operator/Maintainer. He was assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, and took advantage of the location, visiting Justin numerous times in Arizona.|
Like many big brothers, when his Justin came to him and said that he wanted to join, Mica advised him to finish school and if he was still interested in the Army after graduating, to commission and join. Like many younger brothers, Justin didn't listen and enlisted anyway, as an infantryman.
Mica was still at Fort Bliss when Justin joined and was assigned to the 112th Signal Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 2005. Later that year, Mica was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and what followed would be a time in his career he's never forgotten. He and Justin were able to train together, jump together, attend unit functions together and Justin was even able to pin Mica when he was promoted to staff sergeant.
Soon after, the brothers would be separated by multiple deployments and changes of duty stations that made seeing each other almost impossible, including a stretch of almost three years between 2005 and 2008.
After a deployment to the Philippines, Justin re-deployed in November of 2005 and was assigned to the scout platoon of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.
“In the summer of 2009, Justin called me and told me that he was getting married in Houston and wanted me to be his best man,” Mica said. “Of course I accepted and met him in Houston.
“Little did I know that this would be the last time I would see him for over four years.”
Before Justin returned from his first deployment, Mica had been deployed to Iraq. Justin re-deployed to Fort Bragg, switched units, and deployed to Iraq before Mica returned to Bragg. Justin followed suit, changing units and quickly deploying to Iraq for 12 months.
The deployments continued and the brothers continued to just miss each other.
In 2008, Mica was assigned to HHC, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, deploying with them to Logar and Wardak Provinces, Afghanistan in May 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom X.
After the 173rd's return from Afghanistan, Mica stayed busy and began to prepare for the Sky Soldiers' next deployment less than two years away. During that time, Justin called to tell Mica that he would be walking in his footsteps as his unit would also be in Logar and Wardak.
The closer it got to Mica's next deployment, the more he was able to find out, ultimately learning that the 173rd was headed back to Logar and Wardak. More importantly, Mica's unit would be replacing Justin's.
“I can remember driving to Rome with my dad during thanksgiving of 2011 and at that time I knew there was going to be a chance we could meet,” Mica said.
That feeling became stronger when Mica found out that the two of them would be moving through the same outposts and operating bases at the same time.
“I knew we could meet when I found out that I was going to FOB Altimur and that Justin was moving from his combat outpost to Altimur during the same time that I was going to be there,” said Mica. “When we left Aviano there was no doubt I was going to see him.”
Mica and Soldiers of the 173rd departed Aviano Air Base, Italy, on a flight known as Main Body 4. Expecting to arrive at the transit center in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, in less than 10 hours, the Soldiers on MB4 would instead find themselves in transit for almost a week.
While the days passed by, Mica feared that his opportunity to see his brother was passing with them.
When he finally arrived at FOB Shank, Mica was already tracking his brother's movements, and knew Justin made it to nearby FOB Altimur. Many years and thousands of miles later, and the two of them were separated by no more than a short drive.
Fortunately for the two brothers, Command Sgt. Maj. Mickey Rutledge, command sergeant major of 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt.,173rd ABCT, stepped in and bridged the gap.
Rutledge let Mica stay in place at FOB Shank an extra day. That extra day was all the brothers needed, as Justin rolled in shortly after.
The 1st Battalion representative there brought joy to another Snell family member, bringing the brothers to the other side of base where they could have a hot meal and call their mother to let her know that her boys were safe.
“There it is again,” Mica said. “Another amazing experience in my career that involved my brother, the greatest warrior I know.”
By 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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