Brock Gardner and Chad Garrison are both serving in Afghanistan, but they found that they also have something else in common: Bradford County.

SFC Gardner, a graduate of the Canton Junior-Senior High School Class of 1999, is an Intelligence Analyst who is also part of a Security Forces Advisory Team (SFAT) currently deployed to Afghanistan.

SSG Garrison, a graduate of Athens Area High School Class of 1999, is an Artillery Forward Observer serving as a Joint Forward Observer/Fire Support Sergeant for an Afghanistan Security Forces Advisory Team in the Zharey District of Afghanistan.

Quite unexpectedly, the two discovered their common ground.

"We met around Sept. 5, 2011 in Fort Sill, Okla. (HHB/214th Fires Brigade)," Gardner said in an email. "It was Monday, so we were all in the motor pool getting ready to work on our trucks. I overheard him talking about football or hunting, I can't remember. I joined the conversation, and it eventually got around to where we were from and just went from there."

They left at the beginning of May for a nine-month tour.

Gardner recalled, "SSG Garrison and I hit it off as soon as we met. Sometimes you can just tell people that are like you. When I found out where he was from, it just made it even more solid."

From then on, Gardner said they shared conversations about home, hunting, fishing, snow, the Apple 'n Cheese Festival, the Troy Fair, and "anything that we could think of that would remind us of home."

"Being in the Army you meet a lot of people that you consider as your family, but when you actually meet someone that somewhere down the line could be your family, you just kind of relate to them a lot easier."

He added, "Both of us graduated from high school in 1999. We both played football (I only played one year) but we probably played against each other. We both went to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla."

"We were in the same Brigade for at least two years. But didn't meet until I was transferred to his specific unit within the Brigade. We are now both deployed together in Afghanistan about 10 miles apart."

"SFC Gardner and I first realized we were from the same area of Pennsylvania after he overheard one of my many rants about football or wrestling and why Pennsylvania is the best," Garrison said in an email. "He wasn't much help since he is a Texas Longhorns fan. SFC Gardner and I had the typical discussion about where we were both from in Pennsylvania. It usually starts with 'do you know where Scranton is?'"

"Then in typical Bradford County fashion, we discussed distance in time rather than miles until one of us mentioned the actual town we were from. I have served with many soldiers from Pennsylvania but never been in the same unit as someone from Bradford County."

He noted that he and Gardner and both advisors for two separate Afghanistan Security Forces Advisory Teams (SFAT). Each team consists of a handful of senior leaders who are responsible for mentoring and assisting Afghan army units in planning and allocation of Afghan and ISAF resources, he said.

Garrison joined the Army in 1999. He has been stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Richardson and Fort Wainright before being assigned to the 214th Fires Brigade at Fort Sill, Okla where he met Gardner. He is married to Jennifer Galvin Garrison of Syracuse, N.Y., and has four children, Alexandra, 10; Makenna, 7; Connor, 4; and Ian, 3. His parents, Cindy Bordenet and Richard Horton, are both residents of Sayre.

Gardner also joined the army in July 1999, right after graduation. He has been stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C.; Camp Essayons, Korea; Leighton Barracks, Germany; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Sill, Okla. He has been deployed three times, twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. He has a girlfriend, Amanda Barats, of three years who is also from Canton. He has a son Ayden, 6. Both of his parents, Robin Campbell and Clyde Gardner, also live in Canton.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: