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Sisters support each other
By Sgt. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown
Mar 1, 2007 - 3:21:22 PM
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Spc. Karly D. Cooper of Redmond, Ore., an administrative specialist with the 1687th Combat Heavy Equipment Transport (HET) Company, and her sister, Staff Sgt. Kristi L. Hanks, a truck driver in the same unit are together as they usually are during their deployment. (photo by Sgt. Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown, 210th MPAD)
Blackanthem Military News, CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Deploying to a war zone for a year can be a daunting idea, one that may become less intimidating with a little sisterly love.

Staff Sgt. Kristi L. Hanks, and Spc. Karly D. Cooper, both currently of the 1687th Combat Heavy Equipment Transport (HET) Company at Camp Taji, are a pair of 15th Sustainment Brigade Soldiers who chose to deploy together.

Although Hanks 33, of Salt Lake City, Ut., and Cooper, 26, of Redmond, Ore., had not lived together for many years, when Cooper found out that her older sister was deploying, she signed up right away.

In August 2006, Cooper discovered her sister was being deployed, and worked to find out how she could go along as well. She filled out a waiver, went to a five-day mobilization, and landed in Iraq a month after the 1687th did.

“She is the most supportive person to me, she’s one of my best friends,” Cooper said.

It is Hanks second deployment, so when her younger sister said she wanted to come along, Hanks was a little wary.

“I was nervous for her because I wasn’t sure what they’d have her doing,” Hanks said. She said she felt a real responsibility for her sibling, and wanted to make sure she was protected.

Cooper, who joined the Army in 2005 following in a few of her older sibling’s footsteps, said she wanted to join from a young age.

“When I was 14 years old, I decided that I would one day be a Soldier,” she said.

The National Guard Soldier said she put off her dreams for a few years when she married and had two children, but when she joined the timing was right.

“I wanted to set an example for my children and other single moms,” Cooper said of joining four months after getting divorced.

The stage in life in which the sisters joined the Army is also something they have in common. Hanks joined in 2000 just after her own divorce. Her reason: “To do something I could be proud of.”

Although their personal lives separated them, the Army and this deployment have brought them together.

“At home I see her once or twice per year,” Hanks said. “It’s really great to get to know each other better. We have a closeness now that we didn’t before.”

The sisters share living quarters, and while they work at different locations on

Camp Taji, they spend most of their free time together. Cooper said they usually try to eat lunch and dinner together, and when they have time, watch movies and participate in other base events.

“She’s so outgoing,” Hanks said of Cooper. “I think I would have felt more distanced from other people if she wasn’t here.”

Cooper agreed that it has been great living with her sister, and said she might not have volunteered if it weren’t for Hanks.

“It would be a completely different deployment without her,” Cooper said.

She said Hanks also keeps her in line and is someone she looks up to. 

“I can’t imagine getting in trouble for something and having to answer to my sister,” Cooper said.

The two are following in the footsteps of their family members; four out of six siblings are in the military. Hanks said their family is very supportive, but were reluctant to see the two girls deploy.

“They were a little shocked and my mom was nervous,” Hanks said. She added that her family is glad they are together.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to share good and bad times and have someone here who loves me unconditionally,” Hanks said.

Hanks, a truck driver who is currently working at her unit’s headquarters, and

Cooper, an administration specialist working in the Public Affairs section both enjoy their jobs.

“It’s a blessing working for Public Affairs, and I know I’m going to come out of this deployment more future and goal-oriented,” Cooper said. “Coming on this deployment has made me realize who I really am and the potential and talents I posses.”

The duo has about six more months to go on their deployment, but said the time passes more quickly with a sibling by their side.

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