MALS-16 twins leave behind comforts of home for Iraqi desert

27 Nov 2007 | Cpl. Paul Leicht

For most Marines, saying goodbye to family is one of the hardest parts of any deployment. Six months or more in a combat zone can feel like a long time without a close loved one by your side day after day to help you get through.

In the case of four activated reservists here with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, having a twin brother by their side helps set them apart while making a difference.

They arrived at Al Asad, less than one week ago-two sets of identical twin brothers from two different corners of America. Like many other Marines, they left college and their jobs behind to serve their country in Iraq.

With looks that could kill, Sgt. Bryan Swann and his twin brother, Sgt. Ryan Swann, both aviation supply non-commissioned officers, said they joined the Marine Corps for the prestige and to learn things they couldn't get in a classroom .

"We are very similar in many ways in addition to our appearance," said Ryan Swann, who Bryan describes as more 'argumentative.' "We dress the same, like the same hobbies and have a similar outlook on life.

"Honor courage and commitment are values we share, which is why we were drawn to the Marine Corps over the other services," he added.

The Swanns, who have an older brother currently serving with the Army in Bahrain, said they work hard and have gone through the Marine Corps' ranks learning leadership values that dovetail with their education and managerial work experiences back home.

"My brother and I are studying communications and public relations at the University of Maryland while running our own modeling consultant business which we started in July," said Bryan Swann. "Our military experience and our work experience have definitely worked well to help us become better leaders.

"We also have thought about becoming warrant officers," he continued.

At 24-years-old, the twins from Glendale, Md., have a mature outlook on life for their age and understand the importance of responsibility and encouragement.

"Our employers support our mission here a lot and that support has made things easier for us here," said Bryan Swann, aviation supply non-commissioned officer, MALS-16. "Our families support us and I think our mom feels better knowing that we are side by side taking care of each other.

"Iraq is different than we expected, but my brother and I each try to talk to our junior Marines to help get a better awareness of them. We ask them how their families are doing and try our best to keep them motivated out here," he mentioned.

Working alongside the Swanns are two more identical twins-Lance Cpls. Bobby and Billy Smith, both with supply response division, MALS-16.

Drawn to the Marine Corps' offer of a challenge with the hardest boot camp, the 22-year-old twin brothers from Fort Worth, Texas, said the military has changed their lives for the better.

"I always wanted to be a Marine," said Billy Smith who has plans to try to become a Marine officer.

Although both said they have a leadership mentality, Bobby said he and his brother are very different, despite appearances.

According to Bobby, who admits to being spontaneous, outgoing and more athletic than his brother, Billy is more of a 'home-body' and calls home much more often. But with a wife back home, it is easy to understand why.

Like the Swanns, the Smiths said their mother is happy and more comfortable knowing they are serving together.

The Smith brothers said they are used to being close and draw strength from each other. Back home, both are studying medicine at the same college in Texas and also share an apartment.

"There is a comfort zone back home that you just do not have out here and that is the biggest challenge," said Billy Smith.