CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
Two brothers stood at a dusty crossroads, each wearing black sunglasses to guard against the piercing sunrays. They looked each other over, inspecting the differences between their uniforms. While one wears the uniform of a United States Marine, the other sports the battle dress of the U.S. Army.
"I started giving him a tough time as soon as I decided I was going to (the Officer Candidate School), it started right there,"said Marine 2nd Lt. Shane A. Bladen, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) air support officer. "We go back and forth."
"Shane's a Jarhead,"interjected the soldier.
The two siblings, though in different services, are able to be brothers for a few days aboard the remote training grounds of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, while awaiting missions.
"Our uniforms are better, and we did come out with (digital cammies) first!"explained Shane.
"Ours blend in better with the dust,"replies his brother, Spec. Seth A. Bladen, a fuel supply specialist with Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
"Blend in better with the dust? Yeah, they're practically invisible with the red, white and blue patch on your shoulder,"Shane said as he pointed out the American flag patch on his brother's shoulder.
"We don't wear them in combat, we have a black one,"Seth replied.
"This is real quiet too, if you're sneaking through the woods and this catches on something,"There is a loud CRRRAAAAaackkkk, as Shane pulls apart the Velcro fastening on Seth's uniform.
"Your flack jackets have Velcro too, I saw one earlier today,"retorted Seth. The brothers always refer to their services with a proud "my" and reference the other's service with a belittling "your".
"Yours doesn't?"asked Shane.
"I guess it does."
"But, the zipper isn't tactical anyway,"stated Shane.
The military hasn't changed much about these brothers'rivalry. Born three years apart, they played together on soccer and baseball teams while growing up in their home town of Vicksburg, Mich., said Shane. The sibling rivalry has caused a few brawls through the years, but overall the two get along well.
"The first time he saluted me was motivating,"said the blonde-haired Leatherneck lieutenant. "I didn't know it was him at first because it was kind of dark, but when I recognized him it was pretty cool."
Saluting his older brother did not bother Seth; he plans to join the ranks of Army warrant officers some day to pilot Blackhawk helicopters.
"He could have flown helicopters in the Army, that's all I'm sayin',"said Seth, thumbing at his big brother.
"Yeah, but then I would have to be in the Army,"cracked Shane.
"I'll fly helicopters, and when I'm flying and you're not, I'll laugh,'ha ha,'" snapped Seth.
Shane recalled looking for his brother his first day on base.
"I knew we were going to be on the same base, but there are quite a few soldiers here so I wasn't too sure how easy it would be to find him,"said Shane. "I remember the first time I went to the chow hall, we came in the night of the 10th, and I was looking at every soldier to see if it was him. It turns out he goes to a different chow hall than I do, so I wasn't even close."
The next day, while walking along the airfield he spotted a soldier sporting a familiar 10th Mountain Division shoulder patch.
"As chance happened, the soldier was part of his battalion, so it didn't take long to find each other at all,"said Shane. "I'm pretty happy about it. I didn't expect to see him for a year and a half to two years."
Because of their military commitments and differing deployment schedules, the brothers have not spent Christmas together in three years. It will be at least three more before they do.
"We're lucky to have a family that supports us,"said Seth. "They don't shun us for joining the military."
"There are eight kids, and they're all supportive of us,"added Shane. "We don't expect a lot of attention, but we do appreciate all the support we get."
Seth will soon head north to Iraq and Shane will continue with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) as the unit fills the role of theater reserve in Central Command's area of responsibility.
The 22nd MEU(SOC) consists of its Aviation Combat Element, HMM-261 (Reinforced); Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and Command Element. To stay abreast of the unit's scheduled six-month deployment, visit its Web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.