Not so identical identical twins

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Taylor Bourgeous
  • 92nd Air refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Medlen family has had at least one family member from each generation serve in the military dating back as far as the Revolutionary War. Currently there are two actively serving their nation, and they just so happen to be identical twins as well as military aviators.

Air Force 1st Lt. Justin Medlen, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron pilot stationed at Fairchild AFB, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jeremy Medlen, a Mayport MH60-R pilot, also both served as enlisted members before becoming commissioned officers and pilots.

Though a quick glance from the outside may reveal a lot of similarities, a closer look reveals the journeys of the brothers from Lowell, Oregon were quite different.

"I didn't enlist until after I got my bachelor's degree from University of Oregon," said Justin. "I was greatly influenced by what the military offered my brother in terms of taking him from having nothing into a pretty incredible career."

Justin looked into what it would take to become a military pilot and saw the career that he could have. So he enlisted with the Oregon Air National Guard as part of a five-year plan.

"Enlisting in the ANG was tactical, because at that time it gave me a $50,000 cash bonus to pursue pilot training on the civilian side," said Justin.

Justin shared some other necessary milestones and challenges to overcome as he pushed toward his goal of becoming a pilot.

"There are benchmarks in the pilot application. A few of the big ones were prior enlistment with accolades from tech school, then letters of recommendation from ranking pilots," explained Justin. "I wanted to build that up, so I actually sat down before I even enlisted and drew up a five-year plan of how I could put some of them into play while in the ANG."

While in the OR ANG Justin served as an Aircraft Armament Systems Journeyman on the F-15C Eagle. He routinely loaded missiles onto the fighter aircraft, sometimes by hand, and worked on other weapons as well.

Justin ended up serving in the Air Force a little more than five years before becoming an officer. After commissioning and completing initial pilot training, Justin became a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot.

Jeremy was fascinated with submarines when he was young and was able to get a job as Sonar Technician when he enlisted just after high school he worked. He spent the first five years of his service on submarines and then switched to the surface Navy where he worked on special mission ships, and then he eventually become a recruiter in the Portland area.  During this time, Jeremy tirelessly pursued obtaining his own college degree, with continuous encouragement from his brother.

"My brother enlisted traditionally, as a 19-year-old, in the Navy the year after we graduated high school," said Justin. "He was a submarine sonar operator who ran sonar operations on a nuclear-class submarine."

Jeremy served about 10 years in the Navy before commissioning. Jeremy became a helicopter pilot and now hunts for submarines from the air rather than manning them below the surface of the ocean.

"My decision to commission was based on the fact that I was somewhat powerless to make real change," said Jeremy. "I saw too many sailors becoming disgruntled because of poor policies and leadership. I wanted to change these policies. I could only do that by becoming an officer."

Jeremy is the only person in the history of the Navy he is aware of to have ever earned a specific combination of insignia - enlisted Submarine Warfare, enlisted Surface Warfare, Integrated Undersea Surveillance System, Strategic Nuclear Deterrence Warfare and Recruiting Excellence. Jeremy said those are all secondary to his aviator wings of gold.

"It's awesome to be able to continue our family legacy of military service," said Justin. "My brother and I, and our entire family, take pride in that. We are thrilled to serve and honor the family legacy."  "It has been really difficult at times and very good at times. We both have had our own set of struggles."

Both Justin and Jeremy say they believe their bond has strengthened, not just because they're twins, but also by both being military pilots.

"I couldn't be prouder of my brother and his accomplishments," said Jeremy. "It's nice that we speak the same language of aviation and that our jobs are similar."

"It's a deeper brotherhood, it's awesome to look over and be so proud of your brother for what he's doing," said Justin. "It's also amazing to be able to say that not only I am a military pilot, but my twin brother is also a military pilot."