FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Family members serving simultaneously in the military is rare, but even more uncommon is two siblings serving together in the same active-duty unit. In 3rd Special Forces Group, this rarity has become a reality.
Two brothers, Capts. Robert and Nicholas Molinelli, have served together in the unit since June 2018. Robert is the deputy judge advocate and Nicholas is a medical logistics officer. They serve in the same company, an element that has about 150 soldiers.
This is not the first time that siblings have served in the same unit or even in 3rd SFG. Two brothers, both Green Berets, served together during the 2000s, and another set serve together now within the unit. However, it is still extremely uncommon within active-duty units.
By contrast, there are thousands of dual-military married couples in the U.S. Army. While many married couples are at the same duty station, a vast number of them are not in the same unit. This underscores the uniqueness of the brothers' situation, and the opportunity that serving in Special Forces units brings to service members to be able to serve with family members.
"You read these stories about how brothers used to be in the same unit, and now it doesn't happen anymore, so it's a little surreal sitting across from him in meetings, or standing next to him in formation," Capt. Robert Molinelli said.
Robert is the older of the two brothers, both of whom attended high school at Papillion-La Vista High School in Papillion, Nebraska. In 2010, he graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He went on to Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, and received his Juris Doctorate in 2013. He originally went to law school to practice environmental law, but after a military internship, he decided to enter the U.S. Army Reserves. He commissioned into active-duty service in 2015.
Nicholas left Nebraska following high school and graduated from Colorado State University in 2014 with a degree in Psychology. He has always had an interest in serving in the military. Upon graduation, he immediately commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps.
"I wanted to get some real leadership experience and travel," Capt. Nicholas Molinelli said. "I enjoyed growing up in a military household and wanted to serve."
That household has an illustrious history of service from a lineage of patriotic men who dedicated their careers to serving our nation. Their great-great-grandfather served in the Spanish-American War. Their grandfather, retired Maj. Gen. Robert Molinelli, was an armor officer and eventually became the Director of Army Aviation prior to the creation of the aviation branch. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, earning two Silver Stars and two Purple Heart awards.
Their father, retired Col. David Molinelli, was an aviator who started his career flying AH-1 Cobra helicopters and ended it flying AH-64 Apache helicopters.
"I only intended to serve for four years, but I had a great tour with the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and ended up serving 25 years," retired Col. David Molinelli said. "One of the highlights of my early career was flying the East German and Czech [Republic] border in a Cobra with my dad."
He knows how lucky his sons are to be serving together and is happy for them both personally and professionally. He cherishes the moments he had to serve alongside his father and hopes for the same types of experiences for his sons.
"I think it has been a great experience for Rob and Nick to serve in the same unit. This unique opportunity to serve together professionally has enhanced their relationship as brothers and brought our family even closer," he said.
For Capt. Robert Molinelli, it is a situation he also treasures and is grateful for the opportunity. As a new father himself, he also knows that there's always the possibility of another generation of service ahead.
"I would be proud if he chose that path," he said, when asked how he would feel about his son following in his footsteps. "It's an honorable profession, something he could be proud of too."
The leaders of 3rd SFG also put a strong emphasis on family. Family Readiness Groups and other volunteers are liaisons to the unit for information and activities. The unit has multiple "Family Days" throughout the year that help introduce families to one another, build unit cohesion and grow the support network for spouses, children, parents and siblings of soldiers.
This commitment to families is also why the Army observes April as the Month of the Military Child and November as Military Family Month. 3rd SFG also observes training holidays around other Family-related holidays such as Father's Day and Mother's Day, which allows soldiers extra time off work to spend with loved ones.
For the Molinellis, getting to spend time with a loved one is an everyday blessing.
"I think the coolest thing about being in the same company is whenever we're together it's a physical reminder that the Army is a family business in a lot of ways," Capt. Robert Molinelli said.
It certainly is for the Molinelli family.