CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – A pair of Marine Corps brothers had a chance to get together briefly before an operation over Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Capt. Dustin Kerlin, a pilot with Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, recently enjoyed flying with his brother, Lt. Col. Matthew Kerlin.
Matthew, an embedded training team deputy commander, arrived here before the operation. Family members do not often deploy together, and his brother appreciated the opportunity.
“Getting to meet up with my brother in Afghanistan was the highlight of my career,” Dustin said. “It was great to get to see him.”
The brothers, from Albion, Ind., reunited on the flightline for a brief meeting before a joint operation with the two units to transport service members into Helmand province.
“I am thankful any time I get to see a member of the family,” the elder brother said, “even if it is for only 20 minutes on a flightline in Afghanistan.”
The brothers do not see each other often. Their family is scattered across the United States making it difficult to meet.
“It was great to see him,” Dustin said. “My brother has always been a mentor personally and professionally for me.”
Like many families, the brothers picked up right where they left off. Though years had passed since the last time they saw each other, they said, it was easy to be themselves with one another.
The rest of the Kerlin family was shocked, but pleased, to hear the brothers got to work together.
“Being dispersed across the U.S. makes it even better when we have a chance to get together,” Matthew said.
While the chance to work together surprised the two Marine pilots, the fact that they both chose to be pilots did not surprise anyone. Their father had his private pilot’s license and took them flying when they were children. This sparked their love for flying at a young age.
“As long as I can remember, he would take us up in his plane,” Dustin said. “We would fly low by the house [and] do tricks like stalls and go to air shows.”
For the brothers, the experiences shaped their lives.
“He is the reason I am a Marine pilot, and it’s also his fault I am a helicopter pilot,” Matthew said. “Flying is his passion, and his knowledge of military aircraft is incredible.”
When Matthew was a young teen, he went to a small airport that had an old Bell 47, a two-bladed, light helicopter. He paid $100 and experienced his first helicopter flight.
Whether it was taking rides in helicopters or flying by their house, the two Marines were hooked. Now, many years later and thousands of miles away from their hometown, the brothers got an early holiday gift. For the one operation they flew together, the Afghanistan skyline temporarily replaced the Indiana landscape of their childhood.