Purple family supports NATO missions

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marissa Tucker
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Military professionals often depend on each other to watch their backs. These experiences can bond them eternally as brothers or sisters in arms. However, for some service members, the bond is deeper than just a uniform.

Two brothers currently stationed in Turkey support separate, yet equally critical missions. Their brotherly bond led them from their small hometown in Texas to the armed services, where they take to the ground and air supporting NATO missions throughout Turkey and the world.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Gilson and his brother U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean Gilson recently had a brief reunion for the first time in three years while Stephen was waiting to move on to Gaziantep with his unit. Stephen, the NCO in charge of training in the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery unit from Fort Sill, Okla., is currently deployed to Turkey as part of the NATO Patriot mission requested by the Turkish government to deter potential threats near the Turkish-Syrian border.

As luck, or coincidence, would have it, Sean, a boom operator from the 465th Air Refueling Squadron in Tinker, Okla., is on a two-month deployment to the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron here.

"I told my mother where I was deploying to, and I hadn't talked to my brother in a while. She just told me he might be near where I was," said Sean. "Because of both of our operations tempo, we don't really get to see each other much so it's been good to see him while we're both here."

The brothers both have had their share of extended separations from family and friends while meeting the needs of their services, but the Gilson family is accustomed to short visits and quick goodbyes. Several of their family members served in the military throughout the years, from a grandfather who fought in WWII to their father who retired from the Army. Service was instilled early in the Gilson siblings, and they knew when to answer the call.

"I left college to join the Army on Sept. 11," Stephen said. "I just knew what I was going to do. It was always Army for me."

While at his first post at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Stephen was among the first wave of Soldiers to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After making the transition from civilian to Soldier he knew he made the right decision, and his family agreed.

"There's eight siblings all together, and most of them have served in the military," Stephen said. "Our dad is retired Army, so we knew what it was like to serve. Our parent's instilled [service] in us early."

Sean entered active duty in 2005, and has deployed eight times in support of operations such as Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom since them. At least two times while deployed, he missed crossing paths with his brother in the area of responsibility by a few days.

"We've had a few near misses," Sean said. "We seem to always miss each other just by a little bit, but that's just the military."

In continuing the family tradition, the brothers will provide support for both the Patriot and several other NATO efforts missions throughout Turkey and Southwest Asia during their time here. Though only united for a short time, both were glad for the opportunity to spend time together - a rare occasion even though they live within three hours of each other in Oklahoma.

"We barely get to see each other in the states," said Stephen. I'm just glad I got a chance to hang out with him before I headed out."