EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
If you frequent the maintenance side of the base, chances are you’ve probably seen not one, but two Staff Sgt. Bussards. Both working around munitions, Jacob and Joshua Bussard are identical twins who’ve been on the receiving end of countless confused stares and misdirected work emails.
Jacob, a 354th Maintenance Group quality assurance evaluator, and Joshua, a 354th Maintenance Group weapons standardization squadron lead crew team chief, have been inseparable since before birth.
“I suppose growing with a twin for the last 31 years is no different than siblings who are somewhat close in age growing together,” said Jacob. “We went to the same school, had the same friends and worked at some of the same jobs even before joining the Air Force.”
Joshua, who was born two minutes after his twin and only sibling, revealed that growing up they would often fight but remained closer than most.
While it would have been interesting to see the twins go through boot camp at the same time, it was not the case with the Bussards. In January 2016, Jacob entered basic military training and spent his 25th birthday shedding a few tears in the gas chamber. The following year, it was Joshua’s turn to march the streets of Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
“I joined the Air Force pretty late. I was 25 years old and I turned 26 in basic training,” Joshua said. “I joined because I wanted to do something a little bit more. After going to my brother’s BMT graduation, I caught the patriotism bug and joined the USAF.”
Coming from a military family, Jacob’s desire to be part of both his family’s and nation’s legacies led him to enlisting.
“One of our grandparents served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific during World War II. The other was a commander in the Navy in Vietnam. Our great uncle received a Silver Star posthumously for his actions in the Pacific theater during WWII as well,” Jacob said. “My brother and I both loved the military long before we thought of joining. We were raised to have such a high regard for the armed services and for our country.”
While the Bussard twins grew up in Southern California, they both consider Arizona their home. For his first assignment, Jacob was stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona from 2016-2019. Conveniently, from 2017 to early 2020, Joshua was stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, just two hours away from his brother.
“Most service members are hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart from their siblings,” said Jacob. “My first station was a six hour drive home from Tucson to Riverside, California. It was an easy trip on a three-day weekend. My brother was only two hours away when he was in Luke AFB. We would visit each other at least once a month and the drive was not hard at all.”
Remembering that another reason he joined the Air Force was to travel, Jacob updated his assignment preference list. A few days later, he learned that he was going to Eielson AFB, Alaska. In 2019, Eielson had already begun the F-35 beddown process. Jacob knew that the chances of Joshua, being assigned to the F-35 program, getting the same assignment was very high.
“In September of 2019, I came up [to Alaska] with my mom to celebrate her birthday,” Joshua said. “I ended up falling in love with the base and the outdoors up here so I put Eielson on my dream sheet shortly thereafter. I knew the F-35s were coming up here so my chances of coming here were pretty good. I got my assignment the day before Thanksgiving that year.”
From being two hours from one another to being stationed in the same base, Joshua is well aware that the chances of the two of them staying together aren’t incredibly high. The Bussard twins are making the most of the unique opportunity they’ve been given.
“Living at Eielson introduced an old dynamic into our lives,” Jacob said. “It has been amazing to get off work and go ride ATVs or go kayak-ing at a random lake. We both love the outdoors, and what better place to spend time in the outdoors with your brother than in Alaska.”
Despite being stationed at the same base together, Jacob and Joshua haven’t actually worked together. Aside from receiving phone calls from one another, the closest encounter they had on the flightline was during one of last year’s exercises.
“During Arctic Gold 21-1, Jacob was performing ammo expeditor duties and I was filling in as a load crew chief,” Joshua said. “Unfortunately we were working on opposite 12 hour shifts, so we didn’t really see each other for too long. That said, it’s very fun talking to coworkers who could swear that they saw me earlier that day.”
Ammo and Weapons work very closely during normal operations. Joshua believes having Jacob as a close point of contact in Ammo is hugely beneficial. The two have acquainted themselves with plenty of Airmen from both career fields. But it also comes with a few amusing cons.
“Working on the same base as Joshua has its pros and cons,” said Jacob. “I’ve lost count of how many people who have started talking to me because they thought I was my brother. It is still amusing. There have been logistical errors and emails sent to the wrong sibling, but that can be remedied relatively easily.”
Weapons troops are widely known for performing loading operations on aircraft. Since Joshua works at weapons standardization, he primarily executes evaluations of these loading operations performed by the Wing’s weapon load crews. On the other hand, Ammo troops work with the most advanced weapons systems and are responsible for assembling and processing these munitions. As a quality assurance evaluator, Jacob is responsible for making sure crews are performing to a safe and effective standard.
“My responsibilities mirror my brother’s,” Jacob said. “Where I inspect and evaluate the storage, inspection, maintenance, assembly and processing of munitions, my brother inspects and evaluates the loading of these munitions onto the aircraft.”
To the uninitiated, confusing Ammo with Weapons may not seem like a big deal. But between these two distinct career fields, there has been an ongoing friendly rivalry that makes the difference very clear.
“I suppose Ammo and Weapons have a rivalry similar to that of the Department of Defense branches,” said Joshua. “While we may have a public rivalry, if an Ammo troop and a Weapons troop ran into each other at a bar, they’d probably buy each other a drink.”
The other Bussard had an interesting view on this.
“There’s no rivalry. Weapons [troops] just think that they’re better than Ammo. They’re not.” said Jacob.