Al ASAD, Iraq -- For most service members, a deployment to a combat zone means danger, more money, and most importantly being away from loved ones. For two Marines at Al Asad, this could not be farther from the truth.
Lt. Col James D. Hawkins, executive officer, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and Cpl. Dustin M. Hawkins, plane captain, Marine Attack Squadron 513, MAG-16, 3rd MAW, are cousins stationed together here.
"It is great to have a family member out here with you," said James, a Silver Springs, Md., native. "It makes things feel a little more like home."
Ironically, both Hawkins were stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., prior to their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"When we were in Yuma he was the executive officer for MAG-13, and he would occasionally fly with my squadron, but we didn't see each other as much as we do out here," said Dustin, a native of Cape Coral, Fla.
His duties as a plane captain afforded him the unique opportunity to launch and recover his cousin's first flight in theater recently.
"I remember when I recovered him for the first time," said Dustin, "My (staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge) said a flight was returning and the jet I would be recovering was piloted by my cousin. After he taxied to the hangar and stopped, he realized it was me. Once he shut down the aircraft, we greeted each other and he gave me an overview of his flight. The Marine Corps can be a small place, but even so, I didn't anticipate I would be able to work as closely with him as I have been able to."
Having a family member with you while deployed to a war zone helps set a service members mind at ease, according to Dustin.
"Knowing my cousin was going to be out here with me gave me something to look forward to," said Dustin. "On deployments, the Marines you're with are like your family, but its great to actually have family here watching out for you."