SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
Growing up, they were known around their small town as “the twins.” Their mother dressed them in matching outfits as infants, and they participated in the same school activities. Although they gained their own identity as they got older, they now have the same job and wear the same uniform.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgts. Jacob and Zachary LaFlamme are identical twins both serving as Custody Forces flight sergeants assigned to 52nd Fighter Wing geographically separated units.
The distance between them is about two-and-a-half hours, said Jacob, who is assigned to the 701st Munitions Support Squadron at Kleine Brogel Air Base, Belgium. Zachary is assigned to the 702nd MUNSS at Buechel Air Base, Germany.
The brothers also hold the same certifications, Jacob said. However, their motives to enlist were not identical.
“A good amount of my family was in the military, and I wanted to give it a shot,” Jacob said. Their father was in the U.S. Air Force. Their grandfathers were in the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II and played a big role in Jacob’s decision to enlist.
Jacob enlisted in May 2013, after college and working as a mechanic. Zachary followed five months later. Both brothers joined with guaranteed jobs in Security Forces.
“Before I joined, I went to college and got my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice,” Zachary said. “My intent was to become a state trooper. In order to be more marketable and have a better opportunity to get a job in that career field, I was recommended to join the military.”
After Jacob shipped off to Basic Military Training, the brothers did not see each other for more than four years, Zachary said.
Jacob was first stationed at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, and Zachary was stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Getting stationed near each other overseas was not a coincidence.
“I told him how the assignment system worked and what bases were available,” Jacob said. “That’s how he got Buechel, so I kind of had an influence in that.”
The brother’s situation is not common.
“It’s strange because there are not many MUNSS bases, so for both of us to be stationed at one is kind of unique,” Zachary said. “We always thought it would be nice if we were stationed closer together, but we wouldn’t be destroyed if it didn’t happen – we’re just grateful that it did.”
Rather than sibling rivalry, the brothers encourage each other’s careers.
“We motivate each other,” Jacob said. “We both tested for staff sergeant at the same time; we both made it. We’re testing for tech next year, so we’re motivated to push each other to make it. If anything, it drives me to try to keep up with him, and I think vice versa.”
Having the same credentials helps the brothers connect to each other and the Air Force.
“It can be a little difficult to keep our morale up, especially in our career field,” Jacob said. “Fortunately, we’re both the same rank and in the same job. We can talk about things that maybe we don’t feel comfortable talking to a peer with. That definitely helps.”
“If I ever do have any off-the-wall questions about his experience at the MUNSS, I can ask,” Zachary said. “It’s helpful because there are not that many people with that kind of experience. We’re going through the same thing, same mission, same positions – it’s pretty cool.”
Jacob and Zachary are both married with children. Being stationed near each other helps keep a close, family atmosphere.
“We’re able to all meet each other, our kids are able to meet,” Jacob said. “It’s awesome we can do it so often.”
The brothers also share hobbies and interests with each other.
“I’m big into working on cars,” Jacob said. “My brother, not so much, but I’ve been able to teach him some stuff with him being over here. He’ll drive over, we’ll fix some stuff with his car – so we get to share that interest.”
Their schedules do not always allow them to meet up, so they connect other ways.
“We also play video games together,” Zachary said. “We’re able to hop on and talk through the headsets. Just being in the same time zone has been really nice.”
Their mother dressed them in matching outfits until they were about two years old, Jacob said.
“Growing up, it was a relatively small town, so everyone knew us as ‘the twins,’” Jacob said. “As we became adults, we got our own identity. We joined the Air Force, we had the same job. It didn’t really hit us until I hear, ‘I thought I saw you over at Spangdahlem. I thought I saw you at the Airman Leadership School graduation, but it was actually your brother.’”
Although Zachary is glad to be stationed near his brother, he is thankful they are not at the same unit, to avoid more confusion, he said.
The brothers will soon go their separate ways.
“I do not intend to reenlist, since this is a temporary thing for me anyway,” Zachary said, who is planning to move to Japan. “I’m going to explore my other options, but I’m always going to look back on this and be grateful.”
Jacob will be stationed in Korea in May 2019, with a follow-on tour to Vogelweh Air Base, Germany.
“We’re so lucky to live in a time where we can openly communicate and not have to mail letters or take a boat to see someone,” Zachary said. “We’re way more accessible. He knows he is always more than welcome to visit. I’d be more than happy to visit him no matter where he ends up.”
They are grateful for the connection they share.
“Being able to look out for each other,” Zachary said, “and having someone that’s going through the exact same things as you are – it’s really special.”