CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar -- "It feels like I got a cheat code for a deployment," said Pvt. Matthew Maurino, an infantryman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment. "You don't feel as far away from home when your brother's here. Especially your twin."
Private Maurino and his identical twin brother, Spc. Joseph Maurino, an infantryman with the New Jersey Army National Guard's Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 114th Inf. Rgt., are currently deployed together to Qatar and serve as part of the security forces element for Area Support Group-Qatar. Joseph joined the Army after graduating high school in 2017; Matthew joined in 2018 after completing his first semester of college.
"I've always wanted to join since I was a little kid," Matthew said. "I didn't plan on joining so soon, I planned on going to college first. But my brother came back and I saw him in his nice uniform and I said, you know what, I might as well join up now, get some excitement going and go to college when I get back."
For Joseph, his journey to the Army began with a properly placed pen.
"I basically was at lunch one day and a recruiter was there and I needed a pen for class and I took it," Joseph said.
From there, the recruiter contacted him and, after some discussion about military occupational specialty options, Joseph signed up as an infantryman by October of his senior year in high school.
"A part of me always wanted to learn how to fight," Joseph said. "I figured if I'm going to go military I'll go guard. I wanted to make sure I'll go to college, too."
The opportunity to deploy together came about while Matthew was still attending one station unit training at Fort Benning, Georgia.
"I knew he wanted to go, there (were) like two slots left, and (my first sergeant) put my brother in one of those slots," Joseph said. "So before he even was finished with OSUT, I knew was going on the deployment."
Now that they're deployed, the brothers, who are separated by less than 3 minutes at birth, enjoy spending time together when their schedules allow.
"Whenever he's back and I'm back on my days off, we'll always be meeting up smoking cigars and going to the movies," Joseph said. "Usually we'll just knock on each other's door at obscene hours of the day like 1 o'clock in the morning. I'll get over there and he'll blast some music as he's telling me all these crazy stories he had. That's usually how it goes every time. Either me doing it or he's doing it."
The random door knocks are not the only way these Manalapan, New Jersey, natives find themselves spending time together.
"Sometimes we wake each other up, but generally we're both up at the same time," Matthew said. "It's interesting with twins, especially identical twins, we actually just naturally tend to do the same things even if we're in different environments. If he's up at a random time, odds are I'm up. If one random night I just want to chill at the (Post Exchange) -- and I never do that -- he'll usually be there, too. The odds shouldn't be that we meet up so much in random places but we tend to always go to the same places by ourselves and meet up. I think that has to do with being a twin because all throughout our life we've done stuff coincidentally in the same area."
Having family close by while deployed is an advantage both brothers enjoy. But, they also enjoy keeping connected to their family in New Jersey.
"My mom will send us snacks and we'll meet up and we'll bring a big thing of snacks and we'll trade what we want because sometimes she sends us a different one," Matthew said. "But those plants are a thing. We're keeping it going."
"Those plants," are also a gift from their mom, Cynthia Maurino. She sent each twin a grass plant in a small pot with a smiley face on it.
"It's a little grass plant, that's all it is, but me and Joe we make sure that this grass plant is in the best conditions possible. We try to make this grass plant survive as long as possible," Matthew said.
Once this deployment is complete, both Matthew and Joseph plan to continue serving. Matthew has his sights set on earning his degree and becoming an officer. Joseph is also pursuing his college degree and plans to join the New Jersey State Police in the future.
"You miss out on a lot, as a twin especially, when they're so far away and you don't have time to talk," Joseph said. "Now that he's here, I don't really lose that. I'm not nearly as homesick as I would be. I haven't felt homesick at all yet."