QAYYARAH WEST AIRFIELD, IRAQ — Deployment often means missing Family members’ major life events, whether that be a senior prom or a wedding or a baby’s first steps.
But sometimes fate intervenes and creates opportunities for those moments to be shared.
One Army officer had the unusual opportunity to share a once-in-a-lifetime moment with her brother while they were both deployed.
Capt. Kaitlin Whitmore, commander of Company C, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, boarded a C-130 in Ali Al Saleem, Kuwait, to see her big brother, Capt. Scott Rayburn, take command for the first time.
“It’s a pretty cool opportunity definitely,” Whitmore said.
“I was able to be there when she (was) pinned captain and when she redeployed from her first deployment, but I wasn’t able to make it to her change of command (ceremony),” said Rayburn, incoming commander of Company A, 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “It’s awesome to actually have some Family on the ground for a major life event. I’m excited. I’m ready to go. I’ve waited my whole career for this.”
From a young age, Rayburn said he knew he was destined for the Army.
“I was going to be in the Army, basically from the day I was born,” Rayburn said. “I was always playing with plastic green Army men in the backyard. I idolized my dad, who spent 26 years in our United States Army as an air defense officer and then as an inspector general officer. I knew from a very early age that I would end up following in his footsteps.”
Whitmore’s journey into the Army wasn’t so obvious, though.
“We both went through ROTC in college,” Whitmore said. “It wasn’t something I had really planned on or even thought about until my second year of college when my dad was like, ‘Look, you need to at least try this. Give it a year and if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to do it, but I think this is something you need to do.’ I tried it, and I ended up really enjoying it, and it clicked, so now we’re here.”
Whitmore smiled as she watched outgoing company commander, Capt. Pete Thompson, pass the guidon to battalion commander Lt. Col. Sebastian Pastor, who then passed it to Rayburn.
The pair of “military brats” have shared the military lifestyle with moves from Fort Bliss; Fort Lewis, Washington; Dexheim, Germany; Fort Monroe, Virginia; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Fairfax, Virginia, where their dad retired and they both graduated from high school.
They even accepted their commissions in the same week in 2011. So getting to share this moment just adds to the list of experiences they’ve shared.
As they both traverse their military journeys, they often bounce ideas off of each other, but they both wind up in the same place for advice.
“We both rely heavily on our dad,” Whitmore said. “We like to sit down and talk, (and) compare notes as far as (Rayburn’s) experiences versus mine, but we always refer back to dad for help because he’s dad, and he’s done it before.”
While their journeys have taken them on similar routes, their individual personalities have contributed to their successes.
“Kaitlin is persistent,” Rayburn said. “Persistent is the word that I would choose to describe her best. If she wants something, she’s going to get it. When things didn’t come easy to her, she’d double down and focus on it, make sure that she took a holistic approach to problem solving. If it didn’t make sense, she’d go back and ask why. She’d figure out how to solve the problem and what the best way to achieve the goal, whether it be getting her degree, getting through ROTC, navigating through the Army and even earlier in life as well.”
Conversely, Whitmore said she would describe Rayburn as an achiever and she is certain he will do well in command.
“Scott was always a great student, a great athlete,” she said. “(He) just knew what he needed to do and would go get it done.”
Having taken command six months before her big brother, Whitmore said, “Enjoy it. It’s awesome. It’s a really cool thing. You get to have a say in the future of your little world, your branch. You get to take these young junior Soldiers, who are either brand new to the Army or don’t know a lot about the Army, and use that senior leadership that you have — your first sergeants, your sergeants first class — and you get to watch these guys achieve great things.”
Six years since being commissioned, Rayburn said he was just ready to put his hands on that guidon and take charge.
“It’s an awesome responsibility,” Rayburn said. “It’s a great opportunity. For the first time to hold that amount of responsibility and duty to the Soldiers of an organization, where you’re no longer just leading them, you’re commanding them. To be able to be in charge of not only their training plan, but to affect their day-to-day life and how they see the Army and try to impart my vision and my lens and share my commander’s vision down to them.
It’s just an awesome responsibility that I greatly look forward to. It’s just an awesome experience all around, between having my sister here and being able to take command ... I couldn’t ask for a better scenario.”