Marine Corps Capt. Jason Torbensen, Air Force 1st Lt. Dustin Torbensen
Sibling Tanker Pilots Connect 7,700 Miles from Home
By Staff Sgt. Francesca Popp
U.S. Central Command Air Forces
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec, 1, 2006 —
Being in different services, they never thought their military paths would cross, but two Kaysville, Utah, brothers are sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Torbensen family learned Marine Corps Capt. Jason Torbensen and Air Force 1st Lt. Dustin Torbensen would serve together at a forward-operating base in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
"(Our family) went from crying to laughing -- knowing we were going to be at war together, instead of separately," said Dustin, a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker pilot.
Jason, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (forward) Marine liaison officer assigned to the Combined Air Operations Center, deployed in early 2006. However, Dustin didn't learn until July about his deployment and the whereabouts of his older brother.
"We didn't know where he was. We just knew he was deployed," said Dustin. "That was a big thing, because he was halfway around the world. When I found out, I casually let him know (via e-mail), 'Hey, I'm going to deploy.'"
Jason replied to the e-mail, "Whoa! I'll see you here then. Dude, I'll get you a packing list."
The eldest of five siblings, Jason said he looked forward to showing his younger brother the ropes.
"Finding out he was coming here was a relief for me. I was excited," said Jason, a KC-130J Hercules tanker pilot deployed from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. "We were going to be able to hang out in a deployed environment, both as pilots, be able to talk shop ... and spend some good, quality time together."
At first, Jason said his career was going down a different path after participating in a mission to Argentina, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I knew after I came home there was zero possibility (of joining the military)," he said. "I was working to get into med school."
Five years after returning from the mission, the opportunity for Jason to fly with the Marine Corps landed. "I immediately hopped on it;" he said when he realized at 27, he "could make it happen."
Jason went to a Marine Corps recruiter and told him he wanted to be a pilot. He took and passed the tests and the recruiter sent him to school to receive a direct commission.
"Medical school was supposed to start in September and Officer Candidate School started in October," he said. "So, the choice had to be made. I graduated (from the University of Utah) and went directly into the officer program. Joining the military was more of a spur of the moment thing, than Lieutenant Torbensen's was. I had a baby on the way and my wife was pretty sure we were going to be a doctor's family. It was a big change for our lifestyle," he said laughing.
"When I found out the Marine Corps had tankers, which is what I really wanted to fly from the very beginning, I worked really hard and I got what I wanted," he said.
"When I was on my (church) mission to Russia, from ages 19 to 21, Jason started talking about the Marine Corps," Dustin said. "The whole flying thing sounded like a good idea after my dad did it and (Jason) was doing it. I decided, out there, to join the military. So when I came home from the mission after two years, I decided to join."
Dustin, who is eight years younger than Jason, said he joined the Air Force because his brother advised him he could get more flying hours in the Air Force than in the Marines.
It was during Dustin’s first semester at Utah State University that he joined the Air Force ROTC. He received his commission in 2004. It was during pilot training school that he chose to fly the tanker platform.
"My dad and I were fairly certain that Dustin would take fighters instead of cargo," said Jason. "We were a little surprised when he chose his venue of airplane."
Marine Capt. Jason Torbensen visits the flightline where his younger brother, Air Force 1st Lt. Dustin Torbensen parks his KC-135 Stratotanker, Nov. 28 in Southwest Asia. The brothers are from Kaysville, Utah. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Scott Wagers
Nonetheless, Jason gave Dustin advice about being an officer; how he should behave himself, and the standard pitfalls of officer life.
"I just tried to direct him as our dad directed me," Jason said. "Dad gave me advice when I went to OCS and I passed that onto Dustin. Dad said things like, 'Hey, don't stand out, be in the middle. Don't be first, but don't be last. Keep your head down.'"
The brothers followed in the footsteps of their father, who flew the C-5 Galaxy and retired after 20 years of Air Force service, and their maternal grandfather, who was a Navy dentist on an aircraft carrier during World War II.
In the time the brothers have been deployed together, they've been able to get to know each other again. They keep in touch and make it a point to see each other during the holidays, but it's been nearly 10 years since they've spent more than two full days together by themselves.
"At Christmas, as hard as it is, we try to spend at least one day together doing the same thing with our families -- making the effort to keep the relationship," Dustin said admitting there is no one else besides his wife that he'd rather spend time with on this deployment. "I get him to myself. At Christmas, it's a fight and that's all we've had is Christmas."
Being deployed together has afforded the brothers the chance to create new memories, like the ones they had so many years ago.
"We are in an environment most brothers don't get to see together," Jason said. "There are a lot of military (families) who are all in country, but are not together. They don't live trailers apart. They live hundreds of miles apart. It is fun to be in a combat environment with your brother, both wanting to do the same things and getting to serve the country together is really special."
It is living buildings apart that has helped ease the stresses of being deployed.
"I know, for me, that it was nice for my brother to be going on his first deployment and his big brother was going to be there to hook him up," Jason said. "There's zero depression factor."
"I have a brother (here). I have someone to talk to," said Dustin, who is deployed from the 905th Air Refueling Squadron at Grand Folks Air Force Base, N.D.
Although they don't live in the same barracks, the lieutenant does visit his brother often.
"He is free to come to my room," Jason said. "He can come and hang out, watch TV and play a little Playstation."
The brothers said that if they did room together, they wouldn't tire of each other. In fact, they said they would probably stay up too late playing games and reminiscing about their childhoods.
Their shared deployment is nearing the end. While Jason has three more months to go Dustin’s deployment has ended. The brothers said they'll continue to call and e-mail each other until the next time they meet -- whether it's on the battlefield or at their parents' house for the holidays.