By Maj. Dave Olson
4th Infantry Division Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Two 4th Infantry Division soldiers are the logistics staff officers for their respective Brigade Combat Teams. While they serve their country in different locations, they have had the honor and privilege of working together as a team during the last ten years.
Majors Lesley and Dennis Ortiz, assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, developed and fostered a loving relationship, while simultaneously serving parallel military careers by working together and communicating effectively.
Lesley, assigned to the 1st “Raider” Brigade Combat Team in February 2008, deployed to Baghdad in March, and Dennis joined the 3rd “Striker” Brigade Combat Team in May 2008 at Forward Operating Base War Eagle, Iraq.
The Ortiz family began a parallel career track from the beginning.
They signed contracts to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps program on the same day during their junior years at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., where he majored in mathematics and she studied English and education, Lesley said.
“I met him at a football game, and we became inseparable,” she said.
The pair graduated and received their commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army and attended their Officers Basic Courses in 1997.
Arriving at Fort Bragg, N.C., their careers continued to parallel each other at their first duty assignments.
The Army assigned them to the same brigade, but they served in different battalions, said Dennis, who hails from Augusta, Ga.
“We were platoon leaders, executive officers, battalion staff officers and company commanders at the same time,” Lesley said.
During this time, the couple continued to communicate and their relationship blossomed and grew stronger, explained Lesley, an Atlanta native. They made it official by getting married May 29, 1999.
“Being with another person in the military, we both had a common understanding how things went, and with not rushing into starting a family, we were able to adjust (to deployments) a lot easier in the early years,” she said.
Lesley said the deployments made her realize that during their marriage, they were going to have to focus on balancing their time apart.
Busier than ever with the new challenges of deploying to war, the couple focused on how they were going to manage their lives and work together as a team.
Lesley and Dennis said they love to plan, so they both adjusted their original 10-year plans, she explained. Those plans brought them to Fort Hood.
Dennis deployed as the company commander of a forward support company with the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 near Tikrit.
Lesley commanded the 297th Cargo Transfer Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, 64th Corps Support Group, 13th Corps Support Command.
Her company deployed simultaneously to Cuba, Iraq and Kuwait, and her teams covered operations at 12 different logistical bases in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom I. During the next deployment, she pushed two platoons to Iraq in December 2004 and one platoon to Afghanistan in 2005.
After three years at Fort Hood, both received orders for Third Army at Fort McPherson, Ga., where they worked in the logistics section of the same headquarters.
Then one day, Lesley and Dennis’ lives would again be forever changed – this time when their son, Dennis, Jr., was born in May 2007.
The baby, who started walking since Lesley and Dennis deployed, caused the military couple to review their plans and yet again and make changes.
Lesley’s Mother, Wilma Sims, takes good care of Dennis Jr., while they serve their country in Iraq. It is the first time, she said, that she has ever had to rely solely on her parents, but her mother is doing a great job providing for her only grandson.
Dennis said that he also looks forward to redeploying, returning to family, his son and home at Fort Hood, especially since he deployed with the division nearly five months before Lesley.
“We have a 14-month-old boy, and I have been deployed for nine months, so I miss my son and haven’t had a lot of time to be with him,” Dennis said.
“So far, the Army has been good at keeping us together,” he said. “Even with this deployment, we were both in (Iraq) within a few months of each other and will redeploy back to the States within a few months of each other.”
“This has been a tough deployment,” Lesley said. “Leaving my baby was the hardest thing I did for this deployment. This has been one of our toughest years in the military – one of the toughest years period.”
Sgt. Zachary Mott with 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs contributed to this article.