Walking down the narrow streets of Brasov, Romania, a young man and woman look for a place to get lunch among the bustling crowd of people on a hot day in June of 2019. Having traveled all the way from the United States, they are excited to try something new during their adventure to Eastern Europe. The terracotta roofed buildings are a riot of colors, from bright orange to pink, mint green to mustard yellow; a palette rarely seen in America. The pair decide to eat some traditional ethnic food and eventually sit down at one of the tables lining the walkways between the local restaurants and businesses.
This is Sgt. Leslie Hernandez and Sgt. Kenny Quintana, both U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 211th Regional Support Group stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas. The Soldiers are here for their annual training as part of Operation Saber Guardian, and the unit is on a morale trip for the day to sightsee before they return to Texas. Hernandez and Quintana are fraternal twins, and this is the first time since either of them joined the Army that they are serving in the same unit while deployed overseas.
For the twins, this trip would not have been possible if it were not for the opportunities the U.S. Army Reserve offered them. In exchange for their service, the citizen-soldiers of the U.S. Army Reserve enjoy several benefits such as paid tuition for college, health insurance, specialty skill training and travel. As Hernandez and Quintana look over the menu, they reflect on life before the Army, how things are better for them now and why they joined in the first place.
Quintana joined the Active Duty Army in May of 2007 and went to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he trained as an aviation operations specialist. He felt inspired to join after his older brother started a career in the Army in 2003.
"It kind of motivated me to go that route too," said Quintana, "but I also wanted to be my own person, see the world in the Active Duty Army."
Hernandez left for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, five days after her twin, but she joined the Army Reserve and trained as an information technology specialist. She said that seeing her older brother join the Army motivated her.
"I got tired of eating the same food over and over at home," said Hernandez. "I also wanted to go to school and not use loans."
Hernandez said the education benefits have been by far the best of anything she has come across compared to any civilian employment she's had. She used her G.I. Bill to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's degree in clinical counseling. Quintana used his educational benefit to earn a degree in aeronautical science.
"If it wasn't for the Army Reserve and being in the military itself, we probably wouldn't be able to be where we are at, being the first in our family to achieve all of this," said Quintana. "We were the first generation of our family to go to school, pass and graduate and move on to the next level."
In addition to the college education benefits, the pair received specialized training from the Army which has been invaluable for them when seeking civilian employment. Quintana has received training in four different military occupational specialties since joining the Army. After switching to the Army Reserve in 2011, he received training as an all-wheel mechanic and later as an automated logistics specialist, and most recently as a transport operator specialist.
"They offer me training so I go," laughed Quintana.
Quintana used his training in logistics to land a job as a maintenance administrator supply technician in the city of Robstown, Texas. He said he likes having two jobs because it provides a change from his routine to do something else.
"You get that chance to break off from one life into another life," said Quintana.
For Hernandez, the Army Reserve has given her a chance to experience a life she never imagined possible. She said she likes the challenges to step outside her comfort zone, to explore and better herself.
"It's a wake-up call in a good way," said Hernandez. "You get to understand and accept your flaws and learn how to reconstruct them and improve each day. It has so many resources that people outside of the military don't have."
Resources provided by the Army Reserve allow citizen-soldiers to travel, often to places they have never been to. Hernandez said she appreciates the chance to get out and see new places. During her time in service, Hernandez has travelled to South Dakota, Georgia, California, Germany and Iraq.
"If I wouldn't have joined the Army, I wouldn't have been able to go anywhere," said Hernandez.
While they wait for their food, the twins reflect on what they have seen on their trip to Romania thus far. They spent part of the morning seeing Dracula's castle and the historic Black Church. Hernandez said the best part was getting to spend time with her brother outside of the United States.
"We got to site see and just explore," said Hernandez.
Hernandez and Quintana talk about how some of the people they know back home have never left Texas. She said joining the Army Reserve has given her the opportunity to meet and serve with different people from all over.
"It's such a diverse group of people," said Hernandez. "If you stay in your hometown or just move a few cities down, you are accustomed to the same people. In the military you meet all kinds of people. It's like another family."
Family is a big part of why Hernandez and Quintana are serving together in the Army Reserve. Quintana said being in the Army Reserve is more than just a second job, it is a chance to be with his family while serving.
"The Army offers you all this and you got to pay nothing but your time," said Quintana. "You become part of a family. You have so much help and it opens another door to more opportunities."
Quintana and Hernandez both agreed they enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together while serving. Hernandez said they don't often get to see each other during their busy week, but drill weekends provide them a chance to catch up.
"I love my brother and it is pretty cool to serve with him," said Hernandez.
"I get to go to drill and see my family as well," said Quintana. "Even though the Army is a family, it is good to share it with family."
For those seeking more information about the US Army Reserve and how to become a citizen-soldier, please go to https://www.goarmy.com/reserve.html
The 211th Regional Support Group is part of the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). The 4th ESC is made up of Soldiers, civilians and their families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America's Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.