While twin brothers Andrea and Matteo Occhipinti have many differences, both decided to enlist with the Marine Corps and both earned their wings Friday morning, along with four other aviators, after years of training at the Naval Air Station in Meridian.
"When we were 16, we went to the Marine Corps recruiting center... we figured we wanted to serve something bigger than ourselves," Matteo Occhipinti, who enlisted after his brother, said. "The Marine Corps demanded something from us while the other branches offered us something."
Though both commissioned at different times, with Matteo Occhipinti going through the Platoon Leaders Course at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Andy Occhipinti going through ROTC at the Illinois Institute of Technology, both earned their wings at the same time.
Though both received degrees from their respective schools in mechanical engineering, Andy Occhipinti said the two had different ways of approaching similar problems.
"He likes to talk to other people and get a couple of opinions," Andy Occhipinti said. "I just look at a problem and think about and work through it before I make a decision."
Their coursework helped them when it came to studying, which the brothers said they did together throughout their training. Now, the brothers will separate again as Andy Occhipinti goes to California to fly the F-18 Hornet and Matteo Occhipinti goes to South Carolina to fly the F-35.
"We've always relied on each other as study partners," Matteo Occhipinti said. "I think it's going to be great even though we're doing different things."
And while the two brothers, natives of the Chicago area, have enjoyed the outdoor lifestyle in Meridian, both expressed excitement about their futures.
"Today's the start of my eight-year contract," Andy Occhipinti said. "I cannot wait to do the rest of it."
Friday's six graduates are: 1st Lt. Jonathan Matthew Cechner, Lt. Mackenzie Alexander Kleven, 1st Lt. Andrea Occhipinti, Capt. Matteo Occhipinti, Lt. j.g. Austen Edward Starkey and 1st Lt. Christopher Dale Willis.
This article is written by Whitney Downard from The Meridian Star, Miss. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.