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Husband and wife, Spc. Cornelius Randolph and Spc. Ayesha Randolph are both stationed at Camp Black Jack, Iraq.
Husband and wife, Spc. Cornelius Randolph and Spc. Ayesha Randolph are both stationed at Camp Black Jack, Iraq. (Terry Boyd / S&S)
Husband and wife, Spc. Cornelius Randolph and Spc. Ayesha Randolph are both stationed at Camp Black Jack, Iraq.
Husband and wife, Spc. Cornelius Randolph and Spc. Ayesha Randolph are both stationed at Camp Black Jack, Iraq. (Terry Boyd / S&S)
Capt. Tom Fauvell and 1st Lt. Heather Fauvell.
Capt. Tom Fauvell and 1st Lt. Heather Fauvell. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

CAMP BLACK JACK, Iraq — In the modern Army, more and more husbands and wives are serving, and fighting, together.

Is it easier being together in a war zone than leaving spouses behind for a one-year deployment? That’s too simplistic, said two couples.

Yes, they’re together, but a marriage in a war zone is basically suspended. No overt affection. No privacy. Certainly no intimacy.

Experiencing what the war zone is really like, and what a spouse is doing in it, heightens some anxieties while alleviating others.

About 10 percent of the people in the active-duty Army were married to another soldier during fiscal 2002-2003, or about 50,000 out of 494,000, said Cathy Gramling, an Army spokeswoman in Washington. Between 2000 and 2001, the number of dual Army families increased to 11 percent from six percent, according to the Army Almanac.

The Randolphs

April 30 was the best day of Spc. Cornelius Randolph’s young life. His wife, Spc. Ayesha Randolph, joined him at Camp Black Jack, near Baghdad International Airport, after surviving two months at Camp Cooke in Taji.

At the time, Camp Cooke was getting mortared every day. Four Arkansas National Guard soldiers were killed in an April 24 attack.

Things were so bad “they didn’t have ice because they had to use it to keep the bodies,” Cornelius Randolph said.

Suddenly, the two 1st Cavalry Division soldiers were together when her unit, 27th Main Support Battalion, transferred to Black Jack. “It was just a big relief to know she’s here. That I’m able to see her and know she’s all right,” Cornelius Randolph said.

Living at Black Jack with only sporadic rocket and mortar attacks “is 200 times better” than Taji, Ayesha Randolph says.

Cornelius Randolph, 19, of Lynchburg, Va., is a M240B gunner with 1st Platoon, Troop D scouts, part of the 1st Cav’s 9th Cavalry Regiment. Ayesha Randolph, 20, of Dallas, is a supply soldier with 27th Forward Support Battalion.

His wife’s arrival completed his world, Cornelius Randolph said.

“My wife, myself and my boys, right here!”

Cornelius Randolph is conscious of not flaunting their relationship in front of his brothers in arms, who are desperately missing their wives. That said, he never thought he’d be in a place where people could tell him what he could and couldn’t do with his own wife.

Brought together by the Army, the Randolphs say they are a case of opposites attracting. They laugh about not liking each other much when they met two years ago at a 1st Cav dining facility at Fort Hood, Texas.

“I’m more country, she’s more southern,” Cornelius Randolph said.

He draws a direct link between his job and his wife.

“I’ve got someone right here to protect, someone I love. I’m a little more motivated to catch these [bad guys],” Cornelius Randolph said.

Out in small teams at night, hunting down the enemy, “he has an extra dangerous job,” Ayesha Randolph said. But danger doesn’t respect gender; she risked her life every time she visited him.

On one trip, a woman dropped a bomb-laden purse off an overpass, Ayesha Randolph said. On another, two roadside bombs exploded, damaging an M-113 personnel carrier and a civilian car.

During her return trips, all he could think about was, “‘Did she make it back?’” Cornelius Randolph said.

All things considered, being at war together is making their marriage stronger, the couple said. They don’t waste time arguing, Cornelius Randolph said.

After all, the little tests life throws at you pale in comparison to coping with being in a war zone, he said.

“If we can make it through this together, we should be able to make it through life,” he said.

The Fauvells

Tom and Heather Fauvell grew up together. They’ve known each other since the fourth or fifth grade, when their families lived a block apart in their central Long Island, N.Y., suburb.

They even went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point together.

Now, Capt. Tom Fauvell, 26, 2nd Brigade utility project manager, and 1st Lt. Heather Fauvell, 25, engineer brigade adjutant, are at war together, assigned to the 1st Cav.

For the Fauvells, being married in a war zone means catching an occasional glimpse of a person a little different than the one they thought they knew all these years.

Heather Fauvell sees a man energized by a daunting mission — who goes from a relaxed, family-oriented man “to a motivated, hard-charging guy.”

Tom Fauvell likes seeing the ultra-organized officer to whom superiors go for advice.

Tom Fauvell’s job is especially hazardous — he’s outside the wire every day, working on utility projects around northwest Baghdad.

Sometime during the last five months, he said he realized it’s not about enhancing his officer efficiency report, but about making a difference.

“It tugs at your heart strings, drives you to do a better job,” he said.

Heather Fauvell’s attitude toward seeing her husband go out on missions is nonchalant.

“I don’t think anything he tells me is going to shock me,” she said. “He comes back one day after being shot at and tells me what happened … and I said, ‘Oh, really?! Well, I’m glad you’re back.’”

Part of it is that she is a tough, gregarious personality who takes pride in staying up-tempo. She’s the one who went to air-assault school.

“I’m the queasy one,” Tom Fauvell said.

With their Army-mandated platonic relationship, “it’s kind of like being teenagers again … a bunch of friends hanging out,” Heather Fauvellsaid. “I laugh all the time.”

Laughing “keeps us sane,” she said.

The Fauvells said they talk often about the future, about family and travel.

“We crave the future normalcy of life,” Heather said.

But being in Iraq together is not that bad.

For the moment, they’re savoring their luck of being together.

“We have it better than we expected to have it,” Heather Fauvell said. “We try to keep our perspective.”

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