Pretoria, South Africa, natives Pfcs. Jan-Karl, 23, and
Pieter, 21, Van Rooyen, infantrymen assigned to the 2nd Battalion,
5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, joined the
Army not only to assist in their citizenship process, but to give
back to the country that has given them so much. Photo by Army Spc. Bailey Jester, Dec. 27, 2011
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (12/29/2011) – It is common for soldiers to
meet up after years of being assigned to the same unit, but it is
unique for two brothers to have the same timeline documented on
their enlisted record brief.
Pfcs. Jan-Karl Van Rooyen, 23,
and Pieter Van Rooyen, 21, have followed each other throughout their
time in the Army since their enlistment in 2010.
Rooyen brothers were born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa,
until 2000 when their father received a job offer in Florida.
His job sponsored the family's move with a special visa allowing
U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty
Although the brothers had gotten used to moving
around and changing schools, moving to a new continent was a
“The biggest fear I had was the readjustment,” Jan-Karl,
at the time 12 years old, said about his move to Florida.
“We were people from a foreign country, so I am sure it is
the same fears any other immigrant would have.”
Pieter, at the time 10 years old, it was the change in
language. He and his brother's primary language changed from
Afrikaans to English, and because of the large population of
Hispanics, they were forced to pick up Spanish.
was a bilingual class, and I got lost pretty quick,” Pieter
said about the language difference. “The teacher kept
switching from Spanish to English, so it was pretty
But overall it was an easy transition for
“I'd say we adapted pretty quickly, and
it was small things that we had to overcome,” Jan-Karl said
about the transition. “We were really reserved, and it took
us awhile to open up and get accustomed to how they
perceived us, but we did it.”
About six months after
moving to Florida, their father's company moved them to
their headquarters in Roswell, Ga., which they now call
With a divided home and forced transitions, the
brothers created similar interests and grew close.
“Our parents got divorced when we were pretty young, we
moved quite a bit and changed schools often,” Pieter said
about his bond with Jan-Karl. “He's my brother and the only
one I really had, so with all that we grew even closer.”
Not only do they enjoy the same interests, they also
enjoy the company.
“Outside of the Army we pretty
much did everything together,” Jan-Karl continued. “We had
the same group of friends, always looked out for each other.
We come from a divorced household, and he has pretty much
always been there for me. We just do everything together.”
The brothers also shared the desire of enlisting in
the U.S. Army.
After two attempts to enlist, the
first in 2007 and again in 2008, they were finally accepted
“We tried to apply before, but we didn't
have our green card yet,” Jan-Karl said explaining the
hold-up for their enlistment. “It had everything to do with
the green card.”
Like many immigrants, the Van Rooyen
brothers joined the Army to assist in their application for
United States citizenship, but it was not their sole intent
“We wanted to do something ambiguous,
do something with our lives,” Jan-Karl said about his
decision to enlist. “You know, give back what this country
has given us.”
Although they enlisted in October
2010, they did not ship to their One Station Unit Training
until February 2011, due to Pieter's current college
Upon completion of his semester, Pieter
and his brother left for Fort Benning, Ga., to become
infantrymen in the U.S. Army.
Once assigned to their
unit, the brothers were placed in the same platoon, which
surprisingly caused them very little grief.
actually not too bad. I mean the drill sergeants kind of
picked on us, but it was all out of good fun,” Jan-Karl
“It wasn't overdone and mainly out of
fun,” Pieter added.
In their original contract, they
both selected to go to the United States Army Airborne
School after completing their training, but changed their
minds and decided to continue on with their military
Jan-Karl originally obtained orders for
Fort Riley, Kan., but their first sergeant offered his
assistance in acquiring matching orders for Fort Hood,
On June 12, 2011, the brothers arrived to
their first and current duty station, Fort Hood, Texas,
where they were than assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th
Cavalry Regiment, of the 1st Brigade,
Division. Pieter was sent to Company A while Jan-Karl went
to Company B.
Upon arriving to the Ironhorse Brigade,
the brothers were informed they would be deploying to Iraq
in support of Operation New Dawn.
When the Van
Rooyens landed in Iraq, it was the first time the brothers
were really separated.
Jan-Karl's company operated
out of Contingency Operating Station Kalsu in Babil
province, and Pieter's was at COS Echo, just south of his
brother in Diwaniyah province.
While deployed in
Iraq, the brothers were only able to see each other once.
“We saw each other once during the deployment, and that
was when I had to go to Kalsu to be fingerprinted for my
citizenship application,” Pieter said about their one-time
Although it was a first time for these young
men, it was an experience for them.
“It's been a
different experience,” Jan-Karl said about their short-term
separation. “Growing up, we've always been together. This is
the first time we have been separated for a prolonged period
Now the two brothers are permanently
reunited at Camp Buehring for the duration of their
Jan-Karl explained this was their first
Christmas away from family, so it was nice to have his
Not only for the holidays is it nice
for the brothers to be here together, but being best
friends, it is nice have each other around.
relaxing to have someone to talk to in your native language,
and we talk about stuff that we don't usually talk about
with other people around,” Jan-Karl said about him and his
brother speaking in Afrikaans, their primary language from
Pieter said that after this deployment, he
plans to apply for Special Forces selection. His brother
said he has similar goals.
“It was what we initially
wanted to do when we joined, but we aren't citizens, so we
had to wait,” said Pieter.
Regardless of the career
path they choose, the brothers have always been there for
each other and will continue to stay close.
By Army Spc. Bailey Jester
1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st
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