FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Army News Service, Dec. 20, 2006) - Four Soldiers from A Company, 264th Medical Battalion, are causing more than a few instructors to do a double take here at the Army Medical Department Center and School.
Even in a sea of green, it's tough to miss two sets of identical twins.
"I couldn't tell the Jackson twins apart until about three weeks into training," said Staff Sgt. Veronica McKenzie, the Jackson twins' drill sergeant. "I'd start yelling at one, but it was the wrong one. I'd just tell him, 'Go tell your brother what I just told you.'"
Pvts. Jerome and Joshua Jackson and Pvts. Chester and Lester Peak are hoping to leave a legacy at Fort Sam Houston, not so much for their similarities, but for their performance as individual Soldiers.
Their instructors say they're well on their way.
"The twins have both done extremely well. They compete against each other and that drives them to succeed," said McKenzie.
The 19-year-old Jackson twins, training to be patient administrators, joined the Army together in July. Their similar career tracks are not an accident. The twins, who have never been separated for more than two weeks, "can't stand to be apart."
Growing up in Hobart, Okla., the Jacksons played sports together, took classes together and even fell for the same girls.
"We'd both like the same girl and would have to play 'rock, paper, scissors' to decide who would ask her out," said Jerome, the eldest by a mere two minutes.
When it came time for college, each had scholarships to different schools. They decided to go Army, to the delight of their father; however, "mom wanted us to join the Air Force because she said it was easier," Joshua said.
Although their mother suspected training would be a challenge, the brothers faced it as they always did - competitively.
"We're always competing against each other," Jerome said, recalling a time when Joshua didn't study and aced a test. "But we also always congratulate each other. We watch out for each other."
Overall, the biggest challenge for the twins hasn't been training; it's been being a twin. While their similarities were to their advantage in elementary school, like the time Jerome took a test for Joshua to score him an A, basic training is not the place to be mistaken for someone else.
"I'd complete a task, and the drill sergeant would tell me to do it again," Jerome said. "I'd tell him, I already did it. It took some convincing."
McKenzie can sympathize. "I couldn't tell the twins apart until about three weeks into training."
Challenges aside, the Jacksons said they're looking forward to a long Army career, hopefully as officers. They'll be one step closer following graduation. After that, they'll head to their first duty station in Germany together.
"They are motivated," McKenzie said. "They're ready, and I'm confident they'll do a good job."
The Peak twins, known as the "Twin Peaks," will also join the Jacksons at graduation.
Though identical, Chester has about 3 inches and 27 pounds on Lester, making the Peaks a bit easier to tell apart from their fellow set of twins.
"We look more alike now; I've lost about 40 pounds since I enlisted," said Chester, who's training with his brother to be a medical logistician. "But he's still got me beat on the PT score."
Like the Jacksons, the Peaks have rarely been apart. From Kirwin, Kan., a "farming-type retirement community" with a population of less than 200, the brothers were familiar faces about town.
"It's one of those towns, I don't want to describe as Mayberry, but if you come into town and someone gets to know you, you become just part of the family," Chester said.
"In Kirwin, it's not about being elected; it's about taking a turn," Lester joked.
The 38-year-old brothers, both married with children, have worked for the same roofing products company for the past 15 years, and on the same crew for 11. They're also volunteer firefighters together.
While settled, the brothers were never 100 percent content.
"We've always wanted to serve our country and we reached a point where, if we wanted to do something, we needed to do it," Lester said. "We could have used our ages as an excuse. But if you have something you've dreamed of, like to accomplish, you can't make excuses.
"And there was never any question we'd do it together. That's the way we've always done things."
The Peaks joined the Army Reserve and attended basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where they had "the time of our lives," Chester said. "Even though we were a lot older than a lot of the Soldiers, even the drill sergeants, we were treated with nothing but respect, there and here."
"I've loved every minute so far," Lester said.
"They're outstanding Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Eric Martin, the Peaks' drill sergeant. "Given the age factor, they're excellent, well-disciplined Soldiers."
After graduation, the Peak brothers will head back to their families in Kansas and their Army Reserve unit, the 388th Medical Logistics, in nearby Hays.
"I'll be glad to get home," said Lester, father to a 10-year-old and 4-month-old. "My boy, he misses me. Every time I talk to him, he says, 'When are you coming home'' But they're all proud of us."
"When a Soldier signs up, he's signing up the whole family," said Chester, father of three. "They live and die with your successes and failures."