FORT DETRICK, Md. -- For the majority of their lives, you’d be hard-pressed to find one without the other.
Identical twin brothers U.S. Army Majs. Christopher and Michael Baisa did everything together growing up, starting at birth in Heidelberg, Germany, where their father was stationed in 1987.
Roommates for over 20 years, they attended the same schools, took the same classes, played the same sports and sometimes even wore the same clothes.
The latter they still do today, serving as Medical Service Corps officers for the past 12 years.
“I often times reminisce about my childhood and there is not a single memory that doesn’t include my twin brother,” Michael Baisa said. “You can ask anyone that knows us and they will tell you we were always together, no matter where we were.”
When it came to their future careers, the Filipino-American brothers -- who sometimes go by just their nicknames, “Ace” (Chris) and “Joker” (Michael) -- knew from a young age that they wanted to serve, just like their father, a retired 23-year noncommissioned officer.
The names Ace and Joker were given by their father, Amante Baisa, who was an avid poker player during his military career. At the same time, their mother, Angeles Baisa, wanted to name the boys after Christian saints, hence Christopher and Michael.
The Baisa family traces its roots back to the Philippines, where the families of their parents both lived before they met after relocating to Hawaii.
After serving in Germany, Amante Baisa’s next assignment moved the family to Fort Rucker, Alabama, the home of Army aviation. The family eventually settled in nearby Daleville, Alabama, where the then-young twin brothers grew up.
With a population of about 5,000 people, Daleville is a small, close-knit community comprised primarily of military families, according to Christopher Baisa, who most recently has served at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency in Fort Detrick, an installation where both brothers have worked over the years.
“I had maybe one or two friends who weren’t military brats,” he said. “Growing up in a small town neighboring a military installation provided us with opportunities to surround ourselves with people with similar aspirations to serve.
“Military is all I ever knew, all that my brother ever knew,” Christopher Baisa added. “We could not think of anything else we could be doing that wasn’t related to the military. We knew that we would join the military and follow in our dad’s footsteps. We just didn’t know how we were going to do that.”
Following high school, the Baisas earned four-year Army ROTC scholarships at the University of Alabama, where they continued on the ROTC track with the goal of earning commission as an Army officer.
“The first three years, my brother and I were literally in all the same classes, the same day, to the hour,” Christopher Baisa said. “Like, literally.”
As they entered their third year, the brothers earned an opportunity to attend Airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“We wanted to have opportunities to lead Soldiers and serve in a much different capacity,” Christopher Baisa said. “And we didn’t think you could do that as a nurse, being solely focused on patient care.”
So they switched majors from nursing and finished their degrees in Health Sciences, graduating in 2010 and commissioning as second lieutenants. The brothers served and lived together for a few more years, attending the Basic Officers Leaders Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in the same platoon and reporting to Fort Hood, Texas, to serve as brigade medical supply officers in the same division.
Despite being in neighboring brigades at Fort Hood, both deployed to Iraq at the same time in support of Operation New Dawn before returning to Fort Hood.
Then, about four years into active duty service, the longtime roommates finally went off on their own as they were sent to new assignments. Christopher went to West Point, N.Y., to serve as chief of operations and readiness at the U.S. Army Military Academy, while Michael went to Korea.
Michael said he knew it was time to go their own ways when Chris got married. The adjustment was difficult, but it was a chance for both to grow individually.
At the same time, some things have never changed.
“Whether or not we realized it back then, we were the best support system anyone could ever ask for,” Michael Baisa said. “We still act the same way when we are together; it’s like a switch. To this day, we always cheer each other on and motivate one another on a daily basis.”
Later on, they reconnected as students in the former Medical Logistics Management Internship Program, or MLMIP, at Fort Detrick. And part of Christopher Baisa’s current role at Fort Detrick was the oversight of the current program, which was recently rebranded the Strategic Medical Logistics Fellows Program.
So far, yet so close
Today, Christopher Baisa is finishing up his time working for USAMMA, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, where he has served as an intern, operations officer and currently in USAMMA’s Force Projection Directorate as chief of centralized contingency programs.
He will next head “home” with his family -- his wife and two sons -- to serve in his next assignment at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Fort Rucker, a short distance from his parents.
Michael Baisa, on the other hand, is thousands of miles away, serving in Kenya as chief of logistics for the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa.
The value of family, both said, is something that was instilled in them early on in their lives. They have their parents to thank, especially their father.
“Although we were very competitive growing up, we both always shared very similar goals in life,” Christopher Baisa said. “I love connecting with my brother because he inculcates the importance of family and the value of our friendships we have developed throughout our experiences thus far.”
Always competitive in nature, the Baisas said they argued and butted heads a good bit in their younger years, but have learned -- mostly since they split up as adults -- just how important it is to support and encourage one another every day, both personally and professionally.
It’s something they find themselves doing more and more as the years go by.
“The older we became, the more we realized how important it was to take care of each other and what our family was trying to teach us all this time,” Michael Baisa said, “… (and) no matter how far we go, we always find our way back to each other.”