Sisters Tess (left) and Tobey White, from Columbus, Ohio, unwrap presents on Christmas Day. Tess is a second lieutenant and Headquarters, Headquarters Company 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, Joint Visitor Bureau officer in charge, while Tobey is a sergeant and Headquarters, Headquarters Company 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke public affairs specialist.(DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (December 26, 2011) — What started as a simple journey for U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Tess White turned into a race against time to see her sister, U.S. Army Sgt. Tobey White, before her tour of duty ended in Afghanistan.
Tess’ journey began Dec. 9, when she left Fort Richardson, Alaska, and traveled around the world, worrying she would miss her sister, Tobey, who was near the completion of her deployment. Her worries were unfounded as she arrived at Forward Operating Base Salerno Dec. 21 and reunited with her sister.
The sisters, Columbus, Ohio, natives, have a rich family history, both parents are former Marines, and someone from their family has fought in every war since the Civil War.
Now, the two sisters take their own place in their family’s history as the first two females to fight in a war. Tobey is the first female in war and Tess is the first commissioned officer. Their mom, Hollie Andrews, was the first female to join the military.
Tess, the officer in charge for the joint visitor bureau, Headquarters, Headquarters Company 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, said that she and her sister have always been in competition with one another, and joining the military was no different.
Both sisters competed to be the first commissioned officer. When Tobey, a public affairs specialist for HHC, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, first entered Officer Candidate School, Tess was still in college going through Reserve Officer Training Corps and was thrilled for her sister, until she realized one important aspect.
“Tobey’s going to commission before me and out rank me. That’s not fair,” Tess said.
Tess also added that her sister has still yet to salute her.
“I’ve saluted you,” Tobey said with a lighthearted stare. “Remember after you received your commission?”
Tobey joined the enlisted side after an injury prevented her from completing Officer Candidate School. After her injury, Tobey was faced with the choice of leaving the Army or re-classing. She spoke with her father, who gave her blunt advice.
“We’re not quitters. Do want you want to, but we are not quitters,” he told her.
Her father’s words inspired her to continue with an Army career, re-classing as a public affairs journalist.
“Failing out of OCS was probably the best thing for me because it gave me the opportunity to work in public affairs,” Tobey said, “which is what I wanted to do anyways. I was very pleased with the end result.”
For Tess, serving her country has always been a life-long dream. In high school she tried to enlist in the Marine Corps, but her father, a former Marine Gunnery Sergeant and veteran of Desert Storm, made a deal with her.
“‘Give me one year of college; if you don’t like it, then you can join.’ That was the deal we made,” said Tess.
Tess eventually joined the ROTC program at Ohio State University, where she received a two-year ROTC scholarship and earned her commission.
She also met her husband at the Leader Development & Assessment Course at Fort Lewis, Wash., who is currently finishing field artillery training and hoping to join the 2nd Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, of the 4th ABCT.
A running joke between the sisters and their parents is whose service is the toughest. Their mother, a former Marine Corps corporal, enjoys teasing her daughters.
Tess shared one particular moment when she attended a military ball while a cadet.
“I wore my Class A’s, and my mom tells me ‘I never thought one of my daughters would ever wear those greens,’” said Tess. “I was about ready to cry.”
Tobey added that when she was trying to choose which service to enter, her parents fully supported any choice she made telling her, “‘It’s your life. Choose the service that is the best fit for you.’”
Upon signing the contract, however her parents teased her by saying the Marines were too tough.
As Tobey’s tour comes to a close and Tess’ begins, the sisters look forward to spending Christmas with each other and opening their presents together.
“I lugged a few gifts with me just to have her open them on Christmas,” said Tess.
Tobey also left her sister with words of encouragement.
“Your deployment will be what you make of it,” she told her younger sister. “If you stay focused, work out, and don’t get complacent, the time will fly by.”
“Take care of Dad,” Tess told her sister. “Mom will be fine, but you know Dad will spend every other day worrying.”
Tess then proceeded to give her sister one more good tease about why she is better.
“I’m airborne and she’s not. Airborne, Hooah!” joked Tess.