At first glance, the sight of the two U.S. Army infantry staff sergeants discussing upcoming operations around a map seems like just another common occurrence here. With a closer look, however, a person could think their vision is playing tricks on them.
“This isn't the first time this has happened,” explained Staff Sgt. Mark Szyman, a squad leader in Heavy Troop, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. “Our first sergeant used to think we were messing with him by wearing the same name tapes.”
September 10, 2016 - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Mark Szyman (left), and his brother Staff Sgt. Nicholas Szyman in front of the Train, Advise and Assist Command-East headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. The brothers are currently deployed together with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Grace Geiger)
Across from him, nodding his head in agreement, sits Staff Sgt. Nicholas Szyman, also a squad leader in Heavy Troop. The two are brothers, and natives of San Antonio, Texas, but currently they find themselves on a small tactical base in eastern Afghanistan.
“This also isn't the first time we've found ourselves overseas together,” said Nicholas. “We were stationed together in Hawaii, and deployed together to Iraq from 2007-2009.”
For the brothers, the military is a family profession. Their younger brother, Travis Szyman, was also in Heavy Troop with them before getting out of the Army, said Nicholas, and their father also served in the military.
“Our parents are supportive of us,” said Mark. “I think it's better for my mom to know that we are together and can look out for one another.”
Approximately halfway through their 9 month deployment, the brothers agree being together is a great experience. They also agree this deployment is different than their deployment to Iraq. Their troop is supporting Train, Advise and Assist Command-East and the advising mission here.
Mark, the oldest, is a squad leader in the ground defense zone platoon. His mission consists of providing force protection for the area immediately surrounding the base.
Nicholas is a guardian angel team leader. As a guardian angel, he facilitates the train, advise and assist mission by providing security for the advisor teams when they conduct engagements with their Afghan counterparts.
“I think I have the better mission,” said Nicholas, half-jokingly. “But, he [Mark] does get to ride around in helicopters a lot more than I do.”
Capt. Russell Huebner, former Heavy Troop commander, enjoyed the added sense of family spirit having siblings in his troop.
“The good thing about having brothers in the unit is they bring others in to the family bond they have,” said Huebner. “They really raise the troop's morale.”
“The best thing about being together during our deployment is being able to vent to my brother when I can't talk to anyone else,” said Nicholas. “He knows and understands what's going on here already.”
“We have gone through literally everything together,” said Mark.
When they aren't in Afghanistan, the brothers are stationed together at Fort Hood, Texas. They admit they don't spend as much time together back home because of their busy schedules. Nicholas is married to Rachel Syzman, and they have two children, Trinity and Liberty. Mark is married to Mary Kate Szyman, and the couple lives near Austin, Texas.
This deployment is also a bitter-sweet time for the brothers, as Mark plans to leave the Army after the deployment. But, for now, they are enjoying every moment together.
By U.S. Army Capt. Grace Geiger
Provided through DVIDS
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