BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (12/24/2012) – Up until a few days
ago, Staff Sgt. Derek Allen hadn't seen his brother, U.S. Army Cpl.
Greg Allen, in a long time.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Allen, 455th Expeditionary
Maintenance Squadron and brother Cpl. Greg Allen, U.S. Army 101st
Airborne Division meet up for the first time since 2009 at Bagram
Air Field on Dec. 23, 2012. The A-10s maintained by Derek dropped
munitions when the 101st called in for air support when they came
under fire and required overhead assistance. (U.S. Air Force photo
by Master Sgt. Jun Kim)
However, an interesting twist of fate spurred their separate
services to bring them together here for the Christmas holidays.
“Both of us being here in [Afghanistan] is the closest we have
ever been to each other since Thanksgiving 2009,” said the 455th
Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintenance
craftsman, deployed here from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
teenager in Akron, Ohio, Sgt. Allen was driven to join the Air Force
following the events of 9/11.
"We took the path less
traveled," he said of the choice he and his brother made to join the
Their parents, Charles and Melissa Allen, recalled that their
eldest son's decision to join the Air Force was long planned.
“[Derek] knew well into his senior year,” Melissa said, “he
signed even before he graduated.”
But while Sgt. Allen chose
the Air Force, his brother opted for the Army instead.
"He didn't want to be like his older brother," Sgt. Allen
recalled with a grin, “he wanted to blaze his own path.”
However, Cpl. Allen said his brother was one of the
biggest supporters of his decision to join the Army.
Besides his wife, “[my brother] was only person who really
understood,” he remembered.
Despite some good-natured
ribbing about each other's chosen service, the Allen
brothers have found the military has only strengthened their
relationship, despite their physical distance.
always been close, but now it's changed from 'you
knucklehead' to 'how's work?'," Sgt. Allen said. "For [our
family], we're the only ones who understand the jargon."
Their parents, meanwhile, are incredibly proud of their
“You have to grow up kind of fast ... being able
to embrace all the different things being thrown at them and
just excel at it,” said Charles of the military life his
sons embraced, “the structure has made them into very strong
Recently, that special relationship was
strengthened even further. Sgt. Allen was able to look out
for his younger sibling, without even realizing it at the
As a member of the A-10 Phase Inspection team,
Allen ensures that the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft
stationed here are ready to execute their mission of close
air support for troops in the field. One December day, two
A-10s were performing air support when they received a call
that a unit was under fire and needed overhead assistance.
One aircraft made a pass over the area and got the call from
the Joint Tactical Air Controller that they needed some
heavy fire. Dropping two 500 pound bombs, the aircraft hit
the target and the hostile fire subsided.
later found out that the unit that needed assistance was
part of the 101st Airborne Division, and that his brother
was among the troops whose lives were safeguarded that day.
“When it comes to close air support, the A-10 is the
first thing you think of,” Cpl. Allen said later, adding it
was tremendous confidence boost to watch the A-10 do its
“That was a moment where I knew everyone was
going to make it back,” he said.
Soon afterward, Cpl.
Allen contacted his brother via Facebook asking him to thank
the A-10 pilot. Sgt. Allen has always taken pride in his
work, but hearing the news of how aircraft he prepares for
flight helped protect his brother increased it.
and the rest of the guys on our Phase team directly affected
the combat airpower that was able to help out not only my
brother but all the guys in his unit,” he said. “It's not
every day that an older brother truly gets to make sure that
the skies over his little brother are safe.
my brother gets to come home to my niece and his wife is a
great feeling," he added.
When the brothers'
respective chains of command heard the story, they launched
a successful effort to get them together for the holidays.
When Cpl. Allen arrived here, the time spent apart seemed to
“It was literally like having seen him
just yesterday,” Sgt. Allen said of his brother's arrival.
That comes as good news to their parents.
do a lot of shielding of us; they don't want us to worry,”
said Melissa. “When we finally got the gist of what
happened, we were like ‘oh, wow, those types of things
really are going on.'”
Charles echoed his wife's
“Like any other parent you're always
thinking about it, but at the same time you aren't thinking
For the time being however, Melissa and
her husband are thrilled at the thought of her sons spending
Christmas together for the first time in years.
really is an awesome Christmas gift,” she said. “They may
not be with us and we're not with them, but at least they
can be with each other.”
By USAF Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
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