CAMP TAJI MILITARY COMPLEX, Iraq —
Soldiers assigned to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade traveled more than 6,300 miles in order to support Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield from November 2017 to August 2018.
And, for Army Sgt. 1st Class Giovanni Ford, the 449th CAB Headquarters and Headquarters Company’s supply sergeant and Staff Sgt. Robert Morneau, a crew chief assigned to the 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion), this deployment held a great surprise.
Ford said he ran into quite a few National Guard colleagues from various states.
But the real treat, he said, was reconnecting with Morneau, a childhood friend.
‘The Army is a Small World’
“The Army is a small world,” Ford said. “Running into Staff Sergeant Morneau was the icing on the cake. I haven’t seen him in 30 years.”
Both noncommissioned officers are from Smyrna, Delaware, and met while participating in various community-based events.
“We grew up in a very small town where everybody knew each other,” Ford said. “There were church events, social events, the 4-H club, Boy Scouts, Little League baseball, Pop Warner [Youth] football, and tons of school events.”
Ford graduated one year prior to his comrade and decided to join the military.
“The Navy had more opportunity,” Ford said. “At the time, the Army was only offering certain military occupational specialties choices, and I wasn’t interested in any they were offering.”
Ford said he completed nine years in the Navy. After a long break in service, a family friend convinced him to join the Army National Guard.
“One of my parents’ neighbors was a North Carolina Guard recruiter,” Ford said. “The rest is history.”
Different Career Paths
Even though they took different career paths, military forces led them back to each other’s circle. The 449th CAB was selected for active service and the unit completed its mobilization training at Forts Hood and Sill.
Morneau said he was attending aerial gunnery training at Fort Sill and was working through a supply issue, which led him straight to Ford’s area of operations.
“When I asked for his first name and the soldier said, ‘Giovanni’ — a light bulb went off,” Morneau said.
He said after some due diligence using Facebook, he confirmed it was indeed his childhood companion.
“It was pretty surreal,” Morneau said. “I mean, I joined the Army at 18 and Gio joined the Navy. We both had long breaks in service before ending up back in the Army Guard, and in different states.”
Since reconnecting and catching up on old times, these two 30-plus-year friends continue to speak highly of each other.
“What I remember most about SFC Ford is his being the life of the party,” Morneau said. “Everyone knew Gio. It seems from what I’ve observed, that much has not changed, which is a good trait in his career field.”
Morneau “was always a witty person and had a strong opinion,” Ford said. “He always stuck to his word.”
They also emphasized the importance of their family support systems.
“This deployment and my previous deployment wouldn’t have been possible without a strong family support system in place,” Ford said.
“This is also my wife Sue’s fourth deployment,” Morneau said. “By that, I mean we’ve been together through Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, twice now. She’s the one that’s dealt with all the things back home that don’t stop just because I’m deployed. She deserves the credit for me being able to do what I do.”
Now that the two comrades have reconnected, Morneau looks to hearing about his comrade’s journey.
“All in all, I guess I was really looking forward to hearing how after all these years he ended up in this trip with me,” Morneau said.