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Identical Twins Complete Recruit Training Together In San Diego

Marine Corps Pvts. Shaun and Gabe Vanderwall are identical twins who went through recruit training together at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Lance Cpl. Bridget Keane
Marine Corps Pvts. Shaun and Gabe Vanderwall are identical twins who went through recruit training together at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

From MCRD San Diego:

Born four minutes apart, Marine Corps Pvts. Shaun and Gabe Vanderwall, Platoon 1035, Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, grew up nearly inseparable.

The 21-year-old identical twins from Ludington, Mich., were always together and enrolled in the same activities since they were children.


“I guess it made it easier for our mother so she didn’t have to be in two places at once,” Shaun said. “That’s where our competitiveness came from.”

The twins would hold “friendly competitions” with each other during sporting events, trying to beat each other’s times and scores. As they moved on to high school, they both joined track and swim and continued in their competitive nature.

Although the boys’ friendly rivalry was taken light-heartedly, they still pushed each other to excel in any activity.

“We’re brothers, we wouldn’t want to see each other fail at anything,” Shaun said.

After graduating from Ludington High School in 2009 and receiving scholarships for their performance in track and swim, both soon realized how expensive college would be even with scholarships.


“Since we were good at swimming, we decided it would be a good idea to join the Coast Guard,” Shaun said. “We wanted to do something in search and rescue.”

The two went to speak with a recruiter, but were discouraged by the news they received.

“We were told that we’d have to wait two years before we could join,” Shaun said. “We decided we were going to wait.”

But the Vanderwall twins grew tired of their work at a local retirement home as servers and cooks. Gabe said they didn’t want to wait any longer and went back to the recruiting center to look at a different branch of service. He spoke with a Marine Corps recruiter and was pleased to hear that he and his brother would be able to leave sooner. He returned home with the good news to Shaun, and the two enlisted in April.

“We both wanted to get on with our lives, and the Marine Corps gave us so many options with jobs and benefits,” said Gabe.

The brothers shipped off to recruit training here Sept. 10 and were placed in the same platoon. Like most recruits, they had a hard time adjusting to the first few weeks of recruit training, they said, but the one thing they had was each other.

The brothers said they motivated each other when times became tough and even kept up with their competitive games during training events such as the combat fitness test.

“We both received a 300 on our CFTs and our times were close,” Gabe said. “We both did 100 ammunition can lifts, our 880 was 2 minutes 29 seconds, but I beat Shaun by seven seconds on the maneuver under fire -- I got a minute 50 seconds and he got 57 seconds.”

Knowing that they could always rely on each other, they continued to push through training and were noticed individually in the platoon.

“Shaun was more of a natural leader when he arrived, and Gabe was more reserved and quiet,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Brandon Rogers, drill instructor. “Gabe is actually the most improved recruit in our platoon.”

Rogers, a 25-year-old Fairfield, Calif., native, explained that while Gabe struggled in the beginning but soon started to volunteer more and take charge, both developed into good leaders, morally and physically.

“They motivated the platoon through their actions,” he said. “When there was a task that needed to be done, they’d always get it taken care of.”

Though the Vanderwall twins now hold the title Marine, their Marine Corps journey isn’t over yet. They are scheduled to continue Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan 8.

Once they finish training there, they will go separate ways for the first time in their lives. It’s going to be a big change in their lives, they said, but they’re ready to experience it.

“I think it will be a good experience for them,” Rogers said. “I’m confident that they’ll be fine on their own.”