For 15 years, the roads traveled by two soldiers were very different, but each led to becoming engineers and serving their country in war-torn Iraq. 

Fort Polk's 46th Engineer Battalion, deployed to Iraq, recently served to reunite two high school acquaintances who had not seen each other since 1993.

Traveling different roads after high school led to the same place thousands of miles from home for two graduates of Egypt High School in Memphis, Tenn. First Lieutenant Cameron Burrell, class of 1994, and 1st Sgt. Antwann Rhodes, class of 1993, bumped into each other while serving in Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Burrell's Reserve unit, the 277th Engineer Company, had just arrived at Camp Liberty when he saw a face he recognized. 

"When we touched ground over here in March, he was giving one of our in-briefs. He looked familiar, so I walked up and asked who he was," Burrell said. "I hadn't seen him since '93."

Since that time, the two have caught up on old times and even ended up working side by side. 

Rhodes had served in a couple of positions with the 46th Engineer Battalion of Fort Polk before being named senior enlisted soldier of the 227th Engineer Company, where Burrell is executive officer.

"It was basically a shock because for the first time in my career, I linked up with an individual I went to high school with and we were able to work together in the same atmosphere," Rhodes said. "So it was a great feeling, especially now, being over at the 277th as the first sergeant. I get to work hand-in-hand with the company's XO."

Working with someone of the background, upbringing and network of friends and family has its advantages. 

"Knowing our area, coming from the same background, we related to each other very well. The work atmosphere is great," Rhodes said.

According to Burrell, "We've caught up on a lot of things. Our families don't know each other that well, but we know a lot of the same people. I've told my parents about him, he has done the same. Our relationship has definitely grown."

For 15 years, the roads traveled by both soldiers were very different, but each led to becoming engineers. Now, after meeting up and working with each other, the two have talked about going into business with each other after the military back in Memphis.

"We've talked about linking up in the next couple of years and maybe completing some business construction work together since we are in the same hometown," Burrell said. 

Rhodes added, "We are in uniform now, but I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years we are in business suits completing construction deals together back in Memphis."

The two have found an unexpected friendship and stress outlet in each other that has made their time in Iraq easier.

"It's like a brother I never had," Rhodes said. "If you are having a bad day, you can lean on each other for a smile each and every day. This is setting the groundwork for a long lasting relationship. It's just amazing, it's a one in a million shot and here he is."

Leesville Daily Leader