Twin defenders share same military story

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Battles
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When a young Airman joins the Air Force, saying goodbye to family is inevitable. But for two brothers, saying goodbye is one thing that they have yet to experience.

Woo and Ja Lee, 20 year-old identical twins from Fresno, Calif., have shared not only their civilian life, but to their surprise, a military career.

Enlisting together, the twins assumed they would be separated upon arrival at basic military training. Consequently, the twins would not only be assigned to the same training squadron, but same flight as well, a trend that would unknowingly carry on through the first year of their career.

"When we enlisted we thought we would leave together and that would be it until graduation," Woo said. "Once we knew we would be in the same training flight it was amazing. Who wouldn't want to have a family member there for support?"

After completion of their nine-week basic training, the twins moved only a few minutes down the road to start their technical school at the security forces training detachment. As with their initial training, the twins believed they would be separated into different classes, however, they quickly learned that their paths would cross again.

"We always knew that we would see each other again after basic training because we were going into the same career field," Ja said. "We had no idea that it would be the same exact class and that we would also share the same dorm room while in training."

While in the middle of defender training, the twins received word that their official orders had been processed: upon graduation from their technical training, the twins would be stationed together at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"It was unbelievable," Ja said. "How was it possible that we keep following each other? We had no idea if this was normal or not, but it was perfect for us. How many people can say that they get to serve their country with their brother in Italy?"

They arrived at Aviano AB Aug. 10, 2013.

"I was honestly thrilled that we got the same orders," Woo said. "I was also surprised because [the instructors] said I wouldn't be stationed with him."

The twins were met by their sponsor who brought them to their dorm room - the same room they will share together for two years. During their in-processing the twins were also informed they would be going through the same security forces training and would work in not just the same squadron, but in the same flight.

"It was great because now that were here together we get to have some harmless fun," Ja said. "Sometimes we pull the twin switch, but quickly laugh it off and reveal there are two of us."

With their next assignment still undetermined, the pair will live, work and serve at Aviano AB not only as service members, but as brothers. In the coming months, the Lee twins will work through their upgrade training and learn the skills necessary to be a defender in the Air Force.

"It's been a great journey so far, I've met so many people here who have become family to both of us," Woo said. "Having him here with me has truly made my experience here more memorable."

Though the twins both live and work together that does not deter them from hanging out after duty hours. The pair can often be found on the basketball court playing a game of one-on-one.

"We tend to hangout a lot of after work together," Woo said. "We have the same group of friends, the same interest in sports and music, so it's a perfect situation we have here."

Currently the pair has no desire to split after their time at Aviano AB is complete, but hope to continue their identical journey at their next assignment. Both Woo and Ja have expressed an interest in serving a short tour in South Korea.

"Our heritage is from Korea and we also have family who lives there," Ja said. "So why not try to experience the next part of that career together as well."

Uniformity helps ensure camaraderie and promotes a team environment, but for two security forces members at Aviano AB, uniformity takes on a whole new meaning - one that they've dealt with since the day they were born.