Chief Master Sgts. Zachary “Zach” Terry and Lucas “Luke” Terry have always done everything as a pair.
From their boyhood in Iowa — precipitated by Zach’s one-minute-faster arrival time 42 years ago — the fraternal twin brothers have hunted, camped on weekends, cheered on the Iowa Hawkeyes and planned their future together. In college, in need of tuition funding and hailing from a long line of military service members, they took a friend’s advice and checked out the Iowa Air National Guard. The brothers both initially joined vehicle operations in 2000, attending basic and tech school together.
And now, 23 years later, they have attained the rank of chief master sergeant together, just months apart.
“We’re both proud of each other for getting it, so there was no animosity when I got it first,” Zach said. “Plus, Luke’s in better shape than I am.”
The Terrys both serve in the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa. Luke, an Active Guard reservist, is the vehicle management superintendent, and Zach, a traditional guardsman, is the unit’s distribution superintendent. Though Zach earned his promotion a few months before Luke, they waited to have a joint promotion ceremony.
“We wanted to do it as a family so our relatives would only have to come out one time,” Zach said, adding that their mom cried at the ceremony.
That togetherness is a constant hallmark of the Terry twins, even with their military experience. Shortly after enlisting, they enrolled at Western Iowa Tech Community College in Sioux City, where they both received associate degrees in business administration. From there, they went to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls to earn bachelor’s degrees in business management.
“We took all the same classes,” Luke said. “I think the best part about serving together, whether we were at school or in the Guard now, is that we play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It makes it easier and more competitive to have your righthand man to bounce ideas off of.”
They eventually put that Guard-funded education to use, starting their own businesses — together, of course. Today, the Terrys manage multiple apartments and storage units. It isn’t hard to find time together, either, since they only live 1 mile apart down a gravel road in Onawa, a town of about 3,000.
“We commute together on drill weekends, and we know how to plan family events when both of us will be gone,” Zach said. They both are married and have two kids each, each set nearly matching the other in age.
There have been times when the brothers’ paths have diverged slightly. Zach, for example, describes himself as “more outgoing” than Luke, enjoying drag racing as a hobby, while Luke is a faster runner.
Careerwise, Zach transferred to the 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines in 2005. He then deployed for six months to Imam Ali Air Base in Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. But the elder twin eventually made his way back to the 185th ARW, reuniting with Luke.
The pair crafts a joint schedule around their absences for events like birthday parties, finetuning over the years as life and family circumstances have changed. They like to compete with each other on PT tests, always aiming for perfect scores.
“I beat him one time in my career,” Zach said proudly. Luke piped up, “Only because I let him.”
Both brothers plan on sticking around the Iowa Air National Guard for a while. Zach retires in approximately three more years, while Luke will finish out in five.
It’s been an extremely rewarding way to live, work and serve their country, the twins said.
“The best shared military moment so far has been getting chief together,” Zach said.
“It’s one of those proud moments, because it’s always been our goal to get chief, so it’s a pretty big deal to us,” he said. “To finally hit that one milestone together, that’s what you strive for.”
“So when you finally get it with your twin brother, it’s a very humbling experience.”Read comments