November 5, 2012
By Cheryl Rodewig
FORT BENNING, Ga.– Pfc. Austin and Pfc. Zachary Conn have done everything together since the day they were born: Feb. 20, 1993. Nineteen years and four months later they enlisted together in the Army National Guard, and most recently, the pair completed nine weeks of basic training on Sand Hill — always side by side. They graduated Nov. 1 with more than 180 Soldiers in C Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment.
“We’re like magnets,” said Zachary Conn, the younger of the two by 28 minutes. “We’ve had every class together since kindergarten. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. We went to preschool with five sets of twins, and we were by far the closest ones out of all the sets of twins. We’re always together.”
Austin Conn said he and his brother are “inseparable.”
“We always find a way to sit by each other,” he said. “Like in chow, even if we’re not close together in line, we always find a way to get back to each other.”
Both part of 1st Platoon, the identical twins also have the same military occupation specialty, or MOS — dental specialist. They occasionally speak in unison and in full ACUs are nearly indistinguishable from each other, although Austin Conn is a half inch taller at 6 feet 1 inch.
In basic training, both have been described by unit cadre as exceeding the standard.
“They have excelled in everything that has been put in front of them,” said Sgt. Renaldo Anderson, a drill sergeant with 1st Platoon who has observed the pair over the past several weeks. “They have proven they have leadership capabilities.”
In his past five months as a drill sergeant, Anderson hasn’t seen any other siblings come through the unit. Overall, he said he believes the relationship has been a benefit to the Soldiers and the platoon as a whole.
“They’re very close — very, very close. You can tell they rely on each other a lot,” he said. “It helped them throughout the cycle. They can always lean on (each other). They have somebody to help push them. But it also helped the platoon, because of them being close.”
Lt. Col. Kyle Feger, Panther Battalion commander, said it was a pleasure to have the Conn twins as part of C Company this cycle.
“They really became a sort of rally point around which the platoon bonded,” he said. “They stand out as leaders among their peers and they feed off of each other’s energy — which carries over to their battle buddies, leading everyone to further successes.”
The brothers, who have no other siblings, said their experience of working together growing up has had practical applications when it came to unit cohesion in the military.
“Having that edge really put us apart from the rest of the group because we knew how to work with others,” Zachary Conn said. “You are here for you to graduate, but you have to be able to work with others to make that common goal happen. It’s nice to have my brother here, but I know there’s 49 other guys upstairs who are going through the same thing I am and feel the same way I do. Now I have a whole family.”
Family is important to the Conn brothers. In fact, they joined the Mississippi National Guard as a way to stay close to home.
Leaving Mize, Miss., their hometown for most of their 19 years, was one of the hardest parts of enlisting, they said.
“It’s really been a mind game. We’ve really had to adjust from being away from our family,” Zachary Conn said. “Being here got us a lot closer. That’s been a major backbone: having someone to lean on in rough times. We feel like we have matured a lot since we’ve been here. Overall, it’s just been a great experience. We’ll never forget it.”
After graduation, the twins are headed home to continue pursuing a degree as nurse anesthetists. They’ll do advanced individual training next summer in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
“They’re two good Soldiers,” Anderson said, “so they’re going to do very well in the Army.”