Third time’s a charm: Twin brothers deploy together again
From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.
Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.
Bryant decided to join first.
"I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy." he said. "I figured I wasn't, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army."
For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.
"I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn't take me seriously." Joseph said. "I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too."
From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)
Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.
"We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn't able to join the same time I did." Joseph said. "He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn't get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill."
Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
"We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person" Joseph said.
Confusion on the brothers' identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.
"Our last day of high school, we switched classes." Bryant said. "We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph's teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn't know me — but my teacher didn't recognize him."
After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph's paths have crossed.
"We both worked at one time at Direct TV" Joseph said. "Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don't necessarily try to follow each other - that's just the way things happen. It really is a small world."
Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.
"Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit" Bryant said.
From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.
"We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion" Joseph added.
When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.
"We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq" Bryant said.
"He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place" Joseph added. "Our older brother actually deployed with me."
Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).
"I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations." Bryant said.
While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of "the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects."
Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.
"I do want to hit my 20 year mark." Joseph said. "It's really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out."
"I'm just going to stay in until I can't stand it anymore" Bryant added.
Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.