AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) — After spending their entire childhood together, some siblings go their separate ways as adults and keep in touch from a safe distance. For the De La Pena brothers, that’s not the case.
Capt. Christopher De La Pena, the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Lessons Learned Directorate deputy director, and Army Reserve Sgt. Nicholas De La Pena, a public affairs broadcast journalist with AFCENT Public Affairs, are currently deployed together at Al Udeid Air Base for the second time.
“Chris has been in longer than I have, and deployed more,” Nicholas said, “but we were mobilized at the same time for both of my deployments.”
Christopher has served in the Air Force for more than 10 years and has deployed three times. For two of those deployments, Nicholas was deployed as well, but that was not the first time Christopher was deployed with family.
“During my first deployment, Nicholas was still in college and had not joined the Army yet,” Christopher said. “I wasn’t alone though. My cousin had recently gotten out of the Air Force and was actually working as a contractor at the same base as me.”
For most service members, the experience of deploying with a family member never happens. The De La Pena’s deployment experiences are a rare occurrence. Still, their concurrent deployments did not mean they were always able to see each other.
“During my first deployment, our schedules never linked up,” Nicholas said. “It was almost a comedy of errors. We were going in and out of many of the same places and barely missing each other every time.”
They were able to keep in touch throughout that deployment though, Nicholas said. With advancement in the cellular tower networks and Wi-Fi across Southwest Asia, it was easy. Especially since Nicholas’ job requires Internet access.
“Whether we are deployed or at home, we are each other’s support network,” Christopher said. “We rely on each other and will always find a way to keep in touch.”
Their support network also includes Christopher’s wife, who has held down the homefront. “She took care of the house and bills and also watched my three dogs, plus Nick’s two (dogs). She is amazing and we have come to rely on her,” he said.
In a strange twist of fate, the brothers are able to see each other more often during their current deployment than they do when at home.
“We see each other as much as possible back home, but it’s hard because we live on opposite ends of the country,” Nicholas said. “For this deployment we are both at Al Udeid Air Base. It’s great being here together because we see each other at least once per week.”
Air Force personnel deploy as individuals, as opposed to the Army which generally deploys entire units, Christopher explained. This means that deploying members of the Air Force don’t necessarily know anyone they are deploying with.
“Having your brother there makes deployments much easier,” Christopher said. “At least I know I will have one familiar face.”
For Nicholas, deploying with his brother has another positive side effect as well.
“He is my older brother, my mentor,” Nicholas said. “I look up to him and can go to him for advice. It is amazing to have him right here when I need him.”
As an Army NCO, Nicholas is expected to be a leader and mentor to lower enlisted Soldiers. When he has questions about leadership or mentorship, he often takes them to his older brother.
“My experiences and time in service have given me a lot of opportunities to learn some of the lessons he is now learning,” Christopher said. “If I can help him have an easier time learning them than I did, I will. It is a great feeling knowing that I am helping advance his career in some small way.”