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San Diego -- Born four minutes apart from each other, Shaun and Gabe Vanderwall, Platoon 1035, Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, grew up nearly inseparable.
The 21-year-old identical twins of Ludington, Mich., were always together and enrolled in the same activities since they were children.
“I guess it made it easier for our mother so she didn’t have to be in two places at once,” said Shaun. “That’s where our competitiveness came from.”
The twins would hold “friendly competitions” with each other during sporting events, trying to beat each other’s times and scores. As they moved on to high school, they both joined track and swim and continued in their competitive nature.
Although the boys’ friendly rivalry was taken light-heartedly, they still pushed each other to excel in any activity.
“We’re brothers, we wouldn’t want to see each other fail at anything,” explained Shaun.
After graduating from Ludington High School in 2009 and receiving scholarships for their performance in track and swim, both soon realized how expensive college would be even with scholarships.
“Since we were good at swimming, we decided it would be a good idea to join the Coast Guard,” explained Shaun. “We wanted to do something in search and rescue.”
The two went to speak with a recruiter and were soon discouraged by the news they received.
“We were told that we’d have to wait two years before we could join,” said Shaun. “We decided we were going to wait.”
As time went on, the Vanderwall twins grew tired of their work at a local retirement home as servers and cooks. Gabe didn’t want to wait any longer and went back to the recruiting center to look at a different branch of service.
He spoke with a Marine Corps recruiter and was pleased to hear that he and his brother would be able to leave sooner. He returned home with the good news to Shaun and the two enlisted in April.
“We both wanted to get on with our lives, and the Marine Corps gave us so many options with jobs and benefits,” said Gabe.
The twins shipped off to recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Sept. 10 and were placed in the same platoon.
Like most recruits, the twins had a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks of recruit training, but the one thing they had was each other.
They motivated each other when times became tough and even kept up with their competitive games during training events such as the combat fitness test.
“We both received a 300 on our CFT’s and our times were close,” explained Gabe. “We both did 100 ammunition can lifts, our 880 was two minutes 29 seconds, but I beat Shaun by seven seconds on the maneuver under fire, I got a minute 50 seconds and he got 57 seconds.”
Knowing that they could always rely on each other, they continued to push through training and were noticed individually in the platoon.
“Shaun was more of a natural leader when he arrived and Gabe was more reserved and quiet,” said Sgt. Brandon Rogers, drill instructor, Plt. 1035, Co. B, 1st RTBn. “Gabe is actually the most improved recruit in our platoon.”
Rogers, a 25-year-old Fairfield, Calif., native, explained that Gabe struggled in the beginning but soon started to volunteer more and take charge, but both developed into good leaders, morally and physically.
“They motivated the platoon through their actions, when there was a task that needed to be done, they’d always get it taken care of,” said Rogers.
The Vanderwall twins now hold the title Marine but their Marine Corps journey isn’t over yet. They are scheduled to continue Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan 8.
Once they finish training there, they will go separate ways for the first time in their lives. The two explained that it’s going to be a big change in their lives, but they’re ready to experience it.
“I think it will be a good experience for them,” said Rogers. “I’m confident that they’ll be fine on their own.”