NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Sibling rivalry has always challenged people to do things better, like run faster or jump higher. Two brothers have taken that competition to new heights to make the Air Force greater.
“We have always competed to find out who was the best,” said Senior Airman Leonel DeJesus-Martinez, 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 Raptor integrated avionics technician. “That is thanks to our dad, he is a competitive person. He used to say, ‘Do things right or don’t do it at all.’”
Leonel, better known as Leo, and his older brother Anibal, who goes by AJ who is also an F-22 avionics technician in the same unit, have taken their dad’s saying to heart.
“We grew up competing in sports,” said AJ. “We both played baseball as kids.”
The stakes changed when AJ decided to leave their home in Ponce, Puerto Rico to join the Air Force.
“We have cousins in the Air Force, so it sounded like a good career and I wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree,” said AJ.
Not everyone in the family was happy with his decision.
“I was mad at him when he decided to join the Air Force,” said Leo. “We had started to become really close. I didn’t know much about the military, I just knew he was leaving.”
Their parents took the change to heart as well.
“Our mom cried,” said Leo. “AJ didn’t speak much English when he left so it surprised us.”
AJ was chosen to be an integrated avionics technician during basic military training and graduated Nov. 21, 2011, changing both brothers’ worlds forever.
“Seeing AJ at his graduation and how the Air Force worked for him, it inspired me to want to join,” said Leo.
Just like the year prior, the younger DeJesus-Martinez brother went to a recruiter and signed on the dotted line and was also selected as an integrated avionics technician. He graduated basic military training Nov. 27, 2012, almost a year to the day after his older brother.
“It was hard for us to see AJ go,” said Leo. “When I left my parents said ‘oh we have already been through this.’”
With over 54,000 personnel in their job in 2012, the likelihood of being in the same place at the same time was slim.
“We went through everything in the Air Force together,” said Leo. “Technical school, earning Senior Airmen below-the-zone, it all just happened a year apart.”
The brotherly competition still continues, but it has evolved into more of collaboration.
“We bought a house together. There we play video games and music together on the weekends,” said Leo. “We work on separate shifts, so we don’t get to see each other often during the week.”
Even though the brothers have each other to lean on, the lessons their parents instilled early in life still lives on.
“Everything we do, we try to do the best we can,” said Leo. “Our parents always encouraged us to go far, but they didn’t know how or where we would go. Now that we have grown up, moved away and made a life for ourselves here, they are really proud.”