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.
The Van 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 occupations.
Although the brothers had gotten used to moving around and changing schools, moving to a new continent was a different challenge.
“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.”
For 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.
“It 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 difficult.”
But overall it was an easy transition for the brothers.
“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 home.
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 in 2010.
“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 for enlisting.
“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 enrollment.
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.
“It was actually not too bad. I mean the drill sergeants kind of picked on us, but it was all out of good fun,” Jan-Karl explained.
“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 progression.
Jan-Karl originally obtained orders for Fort Riley, Kan., but their first sergeant offered his assistance in acquiring matching orders for Fort Hood, Texas.
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,
1st Cavalry 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 reunion.
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 of time.”
Now the two brothers are permanently reunited at Camp Buehring for the duration of their deployment.
Jan-Karl explained this was their first Christmas away from family, so it was nice to have his brother there.
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.
“It's 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 home.
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 Cavalry Division
Provided through DVIDS
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