Double Take: Twins share date of birth, date of rank
By Staff Sgt. Erin Smith, 15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 18, 2008
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- As if being identical twins didn't make it difficult enough to tell the Birchenough brothers apart, their mother felt it necessary to dress them alike. It became so confusing; their kindergarten teacher couldn't tell them apart, so they started to wear name tags. They hated them. They were the only kids in school who had to wear name tags.
Now, more than 25 years later, the brothers still dress alike, and they're still sporting name tags, only now it's as proud members of the U.S. Air Force.
The Birchenough brothers have served proudly and worked hard during their past 10 years in the Air Force to achieve the rank of major. Now they share more than a date of birth, also the date of rank.
Peter and Dennis Birchenough, pinned on the rank of major during a promotion ceremony at the 65th Airlift Squadron conference room, March 28.
Everything seemed to fall into place. It was Dennis' spring break and he wanted to come out one last time before Peter leaves Hickam. The brothers were able to celebrate both their birthdays and their promotion ceremonies together in the same week.
"The ceremony was more significant in that it's the first time we've been recognized for an accomplishment together since our commissioning," said Dennis, a student at Air Force Institute of Technology. "For the early part of our lives, we just took it for granted that we celebrated all accomplishments together and we couldn't wait to get away from each other and get our own identities. Now, having been apart for nearly 9 years, I appreciated doing something together a lot more."
The twins, from Mexico, N.Y., started out on the same path, attending college together, pursuing degrees in electrical engineering. Both chose to participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Clarkson University in upstate N.Y.
Dennis stayed the course while Peter decided he wanted to take to the sky as a pilot. .
"He followed me," Peter, a pilot assigned to the 65th Airlift Squadron said, smiling at Dennis.
"Dennis originally thought about going into Army ROTC, but I had already chosen the AF ROTC because I wanted to seek the pilot route," he said. "Our Aunt [now a Lt. Col. in the AF Reserves] also went the AF ROTC route and I think just the lifestyle in general ended up suiting him as well."
As varying as roles of Airmen and the needs of the Air Force can be, the brothers always managed to meet up together.
"At field training, we were in sister flights in the same squadron and during our freshman year of college, we were in the same room, 2 floors apart," Dennis said.
During their second and third years of college, they were roommates and after commissioning, their first assignments were Dover AFB, Delaware and Ft. Meade Army Post, Md., just a few hours apart.
As the saying goes, "It's a small Air Force." The longer you serve, the more people you encounter. For the Birchenoughs, it's half the size. It isn't unusual for one of them to have an awkward run-in, with the other's old acquaintance.
"I remember being stationed at Nellis AFB during Red Flag," said Dennis. "I was at the Officers Club and a group of pilots who knew Pete came up to me and talked to me like they knew me. The same thing happened at Edwards AFB at the food court with people who flew tanker support."
Though these situations can be awkward for them, it is equally uncomfortable for the person who is confused by the two.
"I made a complete fool of myself the first time [Peter] walked into the squadron," said Tech. Sgt. Dove George, 65th Airlift Squadron. "I knew Dennis while I was stationed at Fort Meade. He was a 2nd Lieutenant at the time who lived in the same apartment complex as I did.
I knew he had a brother in the Air Force but I had no idea he was assigned to the 65th [Airlift Squadron] at Hickam. When I first saw him, I went running up to him like he was an old friend. Then, I put 2 and 2 together."
Run-ins like this only add to their circle of friends and make it easier to get to know people.
"Most encounters usually end with a short conversation in the hall about an embarrassing story or a beer at the O'Club," said Dennis. "On other occasions, I've actually had friends of his crash at my place for a night or two and entertained them while they were on a TDY. One buddy of his would actually come out to Nellis [AFB] every year and we'd hang out for the weekend. The friends seem to feel more comfortable because there's that sense of familiarity when we meet and it definitely helps make for easy conversation."