CAMP DODGE, Iowa — “Me and my brother have a pretty strong relationship, stronger than what most siblings have.”
These words, said by Spc. Gavin Estabrooks, speak to the unique relationship with his brother that goes beyond a sibling bond.
Gavin, part of Headquarters Support Company, 248th Aviation Support Battalion, 67th Troop Command and Staff Sgt. Ethan Estabrooks, with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 147th Attack Helicopter Battalion, 67th Troop Command, serve together in the Iowa Army National Guard.
The two brothers from Slater, Iowa, have had the opportunity to forge their own separate paths in the Army — but their shared military service in the aviation field has produced an unbreakable bond between them.
The Estabrooks brothers share the same military occupational specialty: 15 Tango, UH-60 Black Hawk mechanics. They work together at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Boone, Iowa, as federal technicians.
Their father, Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Estabrooks, also serves in the Iowa National Guard and built a career in aviation. Their grandfather used to build airfields in Thailand during the pre-Vietnam era. So, aviation is a bit of a family legacy.
Ethan, the elder brother, enlisted in July 2013. During a 2016 interview, Ethan said that as a child, it wasn’t uncommon for him to throw on some boots and sport a small Army uniform which had an ‘Estabrooks’ name tape on it.
“The Army has always interested me,” Ethan said. “One day, before graduating from high school, Dad comes in the house and asks me how I’m going to pay for college. Two or three days later, he was able to convince me that the National Guard was the way to go.”
After that moment for Ethan, the rest was history. After graduating high school in 2014, Ethan shipped off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic combat training. After basic, Ethan left for Fort Eustis, Virginia, to complete his 16-week advanced individual training to become a Black Hawk mechanic.
Gavin, however, was reluctant about joining the Guard at first.
“But then I just woke up one day, and I said to myself, ‘You know, it can’t be that bad,'” Gavin said.
Gavin swore in to the Iowa National Guard in August 2020 and shipped to basic training at Fort Jackson in April 2021, and like his brother, became a trained Black Hawk mechanic at Fort Eustis.
Ethan has been in the Army for almost ten years, and Gavin almost three. They served in the same unit for a time, with Ethan appointed as Gavin’s first line leader. Gavin changed aviation units for promotion opportunities, but despite the change, the brothers still get to work together from time to time on the hangar floor at AASF 1 in Boone.
The Estabrooks brothers shared another unique experience in the Guard. Recently, they competed against each other in the 2023 Iowa Army National Guard Best Warrior Competition. The Best Warrior Competition is an experience that few are selected to participate in and requires a high level of endurance. It was Ethan’s second time, and Gavin’s first time, competing in the four-day annual event which throws participating Soldiers into a gauntlet that tests their competencies in areas such as combat fitness, marksmanship, land navigation and warrior tasks and drills.
“I get my drive to participate in Best Warrior from my work ethic and competitiveness,” Ethan said. “I know I won’t be number one in a great deal of many things, yet I certainly would like to try. Knowing where I fall short allows me to grow and learn from experiences. With the Best Warrior competition, I was an aviation MOS inside a combat arms MOS competition. Even though I did not win the competition, I still felt pride, knowing that there were some events that I could still keep up.”
Gavin shared his brother’s affinity for a competitive lifestyle and passion for learning, so it was a natural choice when he decided to compete.
“Since Gavin has joined the Army, there is more of a competitive spirit that drives both of us to excel in our careers," Ethan said. "With him as a 15T, I have yet another person I can easily rely on in the aviation community."
Their relationship has evolved over the years — from regular sibling bickering to pushing each other to reach their goals as adults.
“In the beginning we had the typical brotherly love that all brothers had, from fighting, making fun of each other and wanting what each other had,” Gavin said.
They have learned to challenge each other to their benefits, not just in the Best Warrior Competition, but throughout their careers.
“With [Gavin] in the Guard, we encourage each other to strive for commandant list nominations in schools and to achieve great things in our units,” Ethan said. “We lift each other up by supporting one another's goals and helping each other reach them.”
Even though he has been in the Guard for nearly a decade, Ethan said he still learns new things about his job as a helicopter mechanic each day — including from Gavin, who has completed maintenance jobs he hadn't had a chance to perform yet.
When Gavin decided to follow in his father and brother's paths into aviation, he never expected he would work so closely with Ethan. He became his mentor in both aircraft maintenance and leadership.
“Now we’ve become best friends with an unbreakable bond,” Gavin said.
Growing up, Gavin said their parents instilled discipline and professionalism in them. Their experience in the Army helped drive those lessons home. Going forward, the younger brother admitted to a competition to see which of them will achieve the rank of command sergeant major first.
“It’s a heck of an experience,” Gavin said, “And I think everyone should at least look into it and give it a shot. You get great mentorship and leadership skills. People want to do it just to go to college. It’s more than that. You get six years to explore and to do stuff that no one else can really do.”
To learn more about careers in the U.S. Army, visit GoArmy.com.