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BTZ brothers bring out each other’s best

Senior Airman Juan Antonio, left, is stationed with his brother, Airman 1st Class Antonio Antonio, at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Both brothers made senior airman below-the-zone. Juan is a 633rd Force Support Squadron services apprentice and Antonio is a 439th Supply Chain Operations Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II mission capable technician.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

Senior Airman Juan Antonio, left, is stationed with his brother, Airman 1st Class Antonio Antonio, at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Both brothers made senior airman below-the-zone. Juan is a 633rd Force Support Squadron services apprentice and Antonio is a 439th Supply Chain Operations Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II mission capable technician. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Growing up in Athens, Texas, in a single income home didn't leave Juan Antonio and his brother, Antonio Antonio, much to fall back on, but they never dwelled on what they didn't have. They just did the best with what they had, which was each other.

"There have been many things that we have been through (that) not many others experience, but no matter what the struggle was we overcame it," Juan said.

They overcame difficulties by not only sticking together, but setting goals and helping each other achieve them.

"I was focused on school and doing well," Juan said. "I stayed away from bad people and doing drugs. I just wanted to be a good person."

Juan said he knew he had to set an example for his younger brother, so he worked diligently through schooling to get his bachelor's degree in business administration. Through term papers, tests and hours of homework, Juan still helped and pushed Antonio to achieve the same.

"He helped me through my high school years," Antonio said. "If I got in trouble or in a situation where I needed help, I always went to him. I respect him a lot. He's my older brother, my only brother -- he's the person I look up to the most."

About six months after receiving his bachelor's degree, Juan and Antonio went for a goal they had dreamed up a few years back -- they joined the U.S. Air Force.

"He was always that person I looked up to -- that partner in life," Antonio said of his brother. "I thought if he could do it, I could do it, so I joined."

Juan joined in the “open-general” category and shipped off for basic military training first, willing and ready to accept a job posting meeting Air Force needs. Antonio waited a few months for his desired job to become available.

After graduating technical training school and while his brother was in basic military training, Juan received orders to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, where he now works as a senior airman in the 633rd Force Support Squadron.

A few months later, Antonio had orders in his hands. Expecting to go overseas, his orders read “439th Supply Chain Operations Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.”

"I didn't think I would get stationed with him, and I could tell that when he heard the news, he was pretty excited," Antonio said.

"I knew that if he came here, I was going to help him out no matter what," Juan said.

Through their first few months at Langley, the two stuck together as they always had, meeting after work to talk about each other's days and sometimes de-stressing by playing a game of tennis-soccer, a childhood game they made up.

Enjoying their reunion, the brothers still kept their goals in sight. Juan's first was to earn senior airman below-the-zone. He saw what others who had made it before did and followed suit, volunteering and taking on leadership roles. Juan went up for his BTZ board in February 2014, and made it. Not resting on his laurels, he soon set a new goal – to help set up his brother Antonio, currently an airman 1st class, for success.

"I wanted to push him to get what I did and do even better than I did," Juan said of advising Antonio about promoting BTZ. "We are competitive in some ways, but for goals I guide him to do better than me."

With Juan's guidance, Antonio met with the board and was selected for BTZ in October.

"I was happy he got BTZ because I know that what I said helped him," Juan said. "I know he worked hard for it. I never told him, but I knew he should have gotten it."

Now, the brothers are preparing for their next challenge, which was on Juan's mind the moment Antonio earned rank.

"I was really excited thinking ahead that if we study really hard, we can make staff sergeant at the same time," Juan said.

Set to deploy next year and with plans to apply for Officer Training School in mind, Juan knows he and his brother, who has his heart set on going overseas, will eventually part.

"We're not always going to be together," Juan said. "Our bond is still going to be there, but our paths will lead us different ways. I want to encourage my brother to go overseas. I tell him, 'Don't let anyone stop you, not even me because at the end of the day when you go home it's only you,' so I always tell him to take chances."

As for the next chance Juan is taking, he plans to do everything he can to become an officer just as he and Antonio always planned.

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