MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. --
Marriage can be viewed in a similar way as a military contract. Both are an agreement to serve selflessly and require dedication and commitment. This is especially true in the case of dual-active duty partnerships.
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Mikel Huber, commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina, and wife, retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Alana Huber, former Director of Public Health and Warfighter Organization at Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point, met in 2004 while serving at MCAS Cherry Point.
“There were numerous challenges that we faced daily as we navigated our career responsibilities and our family responsibilities,” said Mikel. “… it was a decision that we made together with our eyes wide open to work as a team for the benefit of family and service. There is no other way to do so successfully.”
Mikel was assigned as an AV-8B instructor pilot at Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, while Alana was assigned to the Naval Hospital as a staff nurse at the Inpatient Care Unit. The couple married at the station’s chapel in 2006.
“Working as a team, we minimized career impacts while executing parenting responsibilities,” said Mikel. “…it would be unfair to say that each of us did not feel the impacts at work of executing family duties and vice versa. I could not have asked for a better partner in [Alana] – I felt like she is there to support me and our family at every turn.”
They had to balance their obligations to military duty and the goals of career progression with the challenges of home: Blending and building a family.
“At times it was mundane challenges like working opposite schedules,” said Mikel. “We both had children from previous marriages, so not only did we come together, but our kids did as well. Once we decided to grow our family, the challenges became more difficult.”
“When we decided to grow our family, there was a long period of self-reflection for each of us as we looked at our responsibilities to the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as our family,” said Alana. “We definitely had a number of ‘how are we going to make this work’ moments – especially when we learned that our family was going to grow by two in 2008.”
It’s been said, what’s worth having is worth working for. Life as an active duty military service member includes the possibility of extended periods away from family, while being on call 24/7. The Huber’s experienced this during their second assignment to MCAS Cherry Point when Alana, assigned as the officer in-charge of Marine Corps Medical Homeport at the Naval Health Clinic, deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Individual Augment for eight months. Mikel held down the home front, staying on top of his responsibilities to their then 2-year-old twins while assigned as the operations officer at Marine Aircraft Group 14.
“While we were in different services, Team Huber certainly embodied the Navy-Marine Corps Team,” said Mikel. “We embraced the ceremony and traditions of both services as much as possible. It was not always easy, and there were many times when our uniformed responsibilities had to take center stage. We tackled it as a team to ensure we covered our bases.”
The Hubers recalled that there were many days that Mikel was the last Marine to arrive at the Child Development Center to collect his children after a long day in the office. Despite the separation, social media allowed regular updates of photos and stories between the couple of what was happening at home. Following Alana’s return and Mikel’s subsequent assumption of command with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, the roles reversed. As Mikel deployed to Afghanistan, Linda took sole care of their family while managing her work responsibilities.
“We have learned over the years that there comes a time for the other person to take on greater responsibilities in their professional life,” said Alana. “When that happens, the other would take a step back and assume a greater role at home. We both have a desire to see each other succeed and we know that will not occur without compromise. With that sense of compromise comes flexibility and understanding.”
Dual-active duty partnerships also come with benefits. Both being in command positions, the duo is able to come to each other for leadership advice.
“We both learned from each other regularly,” said Alana. “We used one another as a sounding board to work through professional challenges.”
According to the Hubers, being in a dual-active service relationship didn’t mean choosing one over the other. It came down to working as a team, understanding the challenges each person faced and then overcoming those challenges.
“Without a doubt, day-to-day life would have been easier with only one of us actively serving,” said Mikel. “But we both have been committed to serving our country and the satisfaction that comes with hard work. We hope that it has set an example for our kids that you can have a successful career and be a good parent. Personally, I feel like [Alana] has set that example at every turn. She is a fantastic naval officer and an even better mom.”
And while a dual-active duty partnership is not an easy task to undertake, it is not impossible. The Hubers attributed their success to love for one another and the passion for success of their family, as well as their mutual love of service to country. Alana retired after 21 years of active duty service on April 1, 2021.
According to the Hubers, the decision to marry into a dual-active duty relationship must be made understanding that the last real choice Marines and Sailors get, is when they volunteer to serve. “Beyond that, we are given orders on where to live and what job to do,” agreed the Hubers. “The Navy and Marine Corps will try their best to keep dual-active duty families together. While not always possible, we have been together more often than not. Teamwork is the way to be successful, realizing that both members of the team must sacrifice. But the sacrifice is worth it when you cannot only serve your country but have a terrific family that is there for you when you get home from work. Having a supportive spouse who shares a life vision and is invested in both our marriage and our career choices is our key to success.”