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Face of Defense: Marine Twins Reunite in Kuwait

By Marine Corps Sgt. Michael T. Knight
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait, May 8, 2009 – If enemies fear one Marine, they now have twice the reason to be afraid.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert I. Johnson, right, and his twin bother, Marine Corps Sgt. Tracey R. Johnson, enjoy a brief reunion on Camp Virginia, Kuwait, April 23, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Michael T. Knight
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Robert I. Johnson and Sgt. Tracey R. Johnson, twin brothers, enjoyed a brief reunion here, far from their small hometown of Albany, La.

Robert, currently deployed to Kuwait, met up here April 23 with his brother, Tracey, who was on his way back to the United States from Iraq.

The meeting was brief, but they had the opportunity to grab some lunch, reminisce on old times and even make a surprise phone call to their father in Picayune, Miss.

Shortly after they exchanged greetings, the sibling rivalry began. In the blink of an eye, the twins were locked in their favorite childhood feat of strength, an old-fashioned arm-wrestling match, triggered from talking about their childhood.

"I always won the left-handed matches, and Tracey always won with the right," Robert said. "Now he can beat me with both. But that's all right; I can still outrun him."

The twins acknowledge they are overly competitive, especially when it comes to sports.

"I remember boxing each other from the time we were 3 years old," Tracey said. "But our competitive nature helped us excel in all types of sports."

The twins always were together growing up, but that bond was eventually interrupted by some life decisions.

The first separation came when Robert decided to join the Marine Corps. He enlisted as an integrated material management system clerk right after graduating from high school in 2000.

Tracey wasn't interested in the military at the time, and decided to stay in his hometown. He accepted a few factory jobs and eventually excelled as a diesel engine mechanic. But a visit home from his brother and some persuasion from the local recruiter led him to enlist as a motor transport mechanic in 2002.

Shortly after Tracey enlisted, Robert changed his specialty to landing support. That choice allowed the pair to serve together for two years with 2nd Marine Logistics Group in Cherry Point, N.C.

While there, they revived old habits by participating in a variety of unit team sports, and they attended the resident sergeant's course together.

But the military tempo eventually caught up and forced them apart again.

The Johnsons now are on separate paths in the Corps, but their gung-ho approach to each other has spilled over into an equal climb toward top-notch careers as Marines. Robert has submitted an application to be a warrant officer.

"Staff Sergeant Johnson has great work ethics," said Gunnery Sgt. Julie A. Evans, strategic mobility office chief at Movement Control Center Kuwait. "He will make an outstanding warrant officer.”

Tracey will be heading to Parris Island, S.C., in July to attend drill instructor school.

"Sergeant Johnson has more than enough motivation to share with the whole platoon," said Cpl. Jordan D. Durham, a squad leader in 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment. "He will make a great drill instructor."

Meanwhile, Robert is serving a year-long deployment as an air mobility chief for MCC-K. He validates, coordinates and tracks all air transportation for deployment and redeployment of Marines and cargo for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"Staff Sergeant Johnson is very knowledgeable and has taught me more about this [specialty] than any of my former leaders," said Sgt. Joshua I. Kahele, Marine Air Ground Task Force plans chief at MCC-K.

Tracey is coming off a seven-month deployment to Iraq with Military Police Company 1/12. He is a motor transport mechanic who brings meaning to the term "every Marine is a rifleman." His unit patrolled the Iraq-Syria border and was instrumental in detaining several high-value targets.

"[Sergeant Johnson] is an extraordinary squad leader," said Gunnery Sgt. Dan Ryley, second platoon sergeant in Military Police Company 1/12. "He is very capable of handling the highest level of responsibilities."

The twins grew up doing everything together, and although they have made separate decisions, they find themselves on a fraternal path to success.

"As brothers, it was important for us to take this opportunity to meet [in Kuwait]," Robert said. "Family means everything to us."

"Family is where it's at," Tracey said in agreement.

(Marine Corps Sgt. Michael T. Knight serves at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.)

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