If good things come in pairs, Army Spc. Joseph Maurino and Army Pvt. Matthew Maurino were a double bonus for Area Support Group–Qatar when the identical twins arrived in the desert last year.
Members of the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, the 20-year-old Manalapan, New Jersey–natives never expected their first deployment to occur at the same time to the same place. But given the fact their lives have been in lockstep since birth, it may not be surprising that it did.
Born minutes apart, the twins grew up in New Jersey playing the same sports, sharing the same friends and doing most everything together. That changed slightly when Joseph needed a pen for his next high school class and borrowed one from an Army recruiter who happened to be in the cafeteria. Not long after, Joseph met with the recruiter again and enlisted in the Army National Guard.
Maurino said his choice of a military occupational specialty (MOS) was a forgone conclusion.
“I joined to fight for my country, which is why I joined the infantry,” Joseph said in an interview conducted via email. “Combined with the toughness and physical training involved, the infantry was the clear choice.”
Matthew traveled a slightly different route to the Army. Though the military had been on his radar since childhood, his plan was to finish college and then enlist. But when Joseph returned home from basic training wearing his Army uniform, Matthew was convinced he should push his college plans to the backburner and also join the National Guard. He said the infantry was a natural choice for him as well.
“I planned on joining the military my whole life,” Matthew also wrote in an email sent from Qatar. “My brother and I ended up in the same career path because we’re both people who enjoy excitement and being in the ‘fight’ so infantry was the de facto MOS for us both.”
Since they had enlisted a year apart, neither brother expected they would experience their first deployment together. Joseph already had orders to Qatar when Matthew — fresh from boot camp — was completing One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ultimately, however, Matthew, who serves with Alpha Company, was given one of the remaining two slots in the Guard unit deploying as part of the security force element at Camp As Sayliyah.
When Joseph found out his brother would be deploying with him to the Middle East, he announced the news to their parents by presenting them with a cake decorated with an image of Doha, Qatar.
“I was very excited,” Joseph said. “I knew I’d be able to have my brother to fall back on if anything was going wrong and visa-versa. If nothing else, it would mean we’d always have somebody to talk and chill with.”
While the twins do not work side-by-side, Matthew says he sees his brother for two-to–three day stretches when Joseph, a Bravo Company member, rotates between Falcon-78 Ammunition Storage Point and Camp As Sayliyah.
“Being deployed with my brother is not insignificant,” Matthew said. “It’s great to have a literal part of your family with you and makes things considerably less stressful. The biggest benefit is simply having your brother with you. There’s no other way I could put it.”
When they reported to Area Support Group-Qatar, the identical twins quickly had their superiors seeing double.
“[There were] more than a few times where officers or senior enlisted would yell at us for being in the wrong place only to be dumbfounded when they would realize it wasn’t their Maurino,” Joseph said.
Despite their many similarities, the brothers can quickly point out the differences between them.
“Matthew is usually a bit livelier and more energetic than I am,” Joseph explained. “That being said, he’s also quite a bit funnier, too. I do think I am more serious than him about certain things. But it’s not like there’s a big brother, little brother dynamic. More like a dynamic duo.”
“We are more alike than different,” Matthew agrees. “But I do believe vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate. Joe disagrees.”
They have no disagreement about what their futures hold. Both brothers plan to continue to serve after their initial enlistments end, though Matthew’s goal is to complete his college degree and become an active–duty Army officer.
Though their time in uniform has been relatively short, the twins are grateful for their National Guard service. Joseph says the military has boosted his confidence and sharpened his interpersonal skills, while Matthew notes that serving in the National Guard has not derailed his college plans, but it has cut the cost of obtaining a degree.
“The Guard is a no-brainer,” Matthew says. “Free college. Even while deployed I’m able to take online classes.”