By Spc. Roland Hale, 1st Inf. Div.November 6, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Twin sisters serving in the Army have stayed together through months of rigorous training and are now deployed to Iraq with an aviation brigade from Fort Riley, Kan.
Spc. Paulette Dabney and Spc. Georgette Steele, natives of Chesapeake, Va., joined the Army in 2008 nearly on a whim, they said. Unlike most of their decisions, which are usually made in twin-like harmony, it was one sister who convinced the other to enlist.
"One day my sister just asked me if I wanted to join the Army," said Dabney. "It seemed a little crazy, but I guess I'm the crazy one, because I went with it."
The twins enlisted as aviation operations specialists and attended three months of Basic Combat Training. After learning the basics of marksmanship, survival, and other combat skills, they were assigned to Fort Rucker, Ala., where they focused on technical training. Their journey continued together when they both received orders for Fort Riley and were assigned to the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
The twins stayed in Kansas for about a year, during which Steele married a fellow Soldier. But even after nine months in Iraq, they are still known as the "Dabney twins."
"We get it all the time," said Steele. "The fact that we're twins doesn't come up in conversation when we're talking to someone new, and when they see us together they get pretty surprised."
Since basic training, Steele said, the twins have managed to use their likeness for a little mischief. Most recently, Dabney took Steele's place in a unit formation to see if anyone would tell the difference.
"Her company was having a formation, so we swapped out right before, name tags and all," said Dabney. "It took them a few minutes, but after the formation they realized it wasn't her."
Looking back at their decision to join two years ago, the Dabney twins still the think the decision was a little crazy, but they have adapted to the Army life well. Both were promoted to the rank of specialist this October and are preparing for promotion to sergeant soon.
While they are both assigned to the eCAB, 1st Inf. Div., Dabney and Steele are in separate divisions of the unit. Dabney works in the brigade's tactical operations center, and her sister works in the same type of office in one of the brigade's subordinate units.
As aviation operations specialists they monitor flights, track the unit's movements around the battlefield, and help commanders communicate between units. They work shifts of no less than 10 hours a day, sometimes working for months without days off.
"It's been crazy for both of us, especially out here," said Dabney. "There's work to do every day, no matter what's going on. One of the biggest positives is that my sister is out here with me. Sometimes we can work together, and she knows exactly what I do every day."
"I'm glad I took her with me when I joined," said Steele. "Without her this wouldn't be the same. It's nice to have your sister with you in Iraq."
"You make friends pretty easily in the Army, but it's another thing to have your sister with you," added Dabney.