KANDAHAR Airfield, Afghanistan -- Growing up with a brother or sister can be tough if they're bigger than you and they bully, tease or steal the last cupcake. You know, the cupcake with your name on it. Then when challenging your older sibling who is clearly the wanton culprit, they blame it on the dog and dismiss you.
But two Airmen have found as they grow older, their common bond through Air Force service helps them grow stronger -- and more likely to share that sacred cupcake.
Master Sgt. Tracy Bennett, 451st Expeditionary Force Support Flight and Staff Sgt. Alan Scobel, 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, have deployed downrange here together for more than two months and they still tease each other just like they did when they were growing up.
"Our dad served in the Air Force for a few years, but voluntarily separated before us kids were born," Bennett said. "Life growing up was great for me, but not so much for my poor little brother. I was the mean big sister that used to beat him up every chance I got. Five years older and much bigger, I would even trip him while he was learning how to walk. It wasn't until I had joined the military when we actually started to get along."
Being the younger sibling has its challenges, but Scobel said it was how Bennett changed when she went in the Air Force that really caught his attention.
"During my senior year, I didn't quite know what I wanted to do with my life after high school," Scobel said. "After Tracy came home on leave one week, I saw how much she was enjoying it and I started considering the Air Force."
At that point, the two Columbus East High School graduates from Columbus, Ind., began planning to spend time together at Bennett's duty station while she was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"She and I talked about it, and she invited me to Eglin to spend time with her, shadow her and see how the Air Force was day in and day out," Scobel said. "It seemed like a pretty nice gig and I was impressed with how much she was accomplishing and how the Air Force gave her a more focused sense of direction. That was something I sorely needed. So, (soon after), I went to the military entrance processing station and I signed up."
But as always, his older sister offered words of advice for her brother's career.
"Before talking to the recruiter, I told him, 'Sign up for six years; you'll thank me later,'" said Bennett. "At his basic training graduation, I could not have been more proud. Since then, we have grown extremely close and he has even come to me for career advice."
Their common bond as Airmen has helped to grow and mature their relationship as well.
"Life growing up with her was tough, not going to lie, she was mean," Scobel said and laughed. "She was always picking on me. Of course I was the typical little brother though, all I could do for revenge was annoy her as much as I could. When I was maybe six years old she painted my nails pink, knowing we didn't have any nail polish remover. I had to go to school with pink nails. Our parents were sure I would grow up not wanting to have anything to do with her."
Joining the Air Force seemed to mature his sister, said Scobel. The siblings are now closer than ever before.
"We started to get along, especially after I joined," he said. "If I have any career-related questions or advice, many times I will go to her. I'm trying to catch up to her in rank, but she's kind of a fast burner."
In trying to catch up to his sister, Scobel realized after being slated for a deployment to Africa that his functional manager offered some flexibility in the deployment and he sought to change the location to be there for Bennett.
"I was slotted for a nice cushy Africa deployment, but when I found out she was coming here, I immediately wanted to switch," Scobel said. "These past 16 years, we've only had a handful of times to spend together; usually just every other year for the holidays. I figured she misses her husband and kids back at home, so why not try to cheer her up?"
The gesture was well received and Bennett and Scobel tried to make the most of the time they have here together, though their mission has them working opposite shifts.
"Our parents were stoked and couldn't be happier that we would get to be together here at Kandahar," Bennett said. "For those fortunate enough to be deployed or stationed with family, it truly makes you appreciative. Although on opposite shifts, we try to see each other whenever possible, and although he's bigger than me now, I can probably still beat him up."
Cupcake? What cupcake!