From military to civil service deployments, these Army brothers stick together

by Katie Lange, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Stripes Okinawa

WASHINGTON -- Going to college, getting a degree and then finding a lucrative job is a dream for a lot of Americans -- and it is something one can also make happen in the military. Just ask the Scherzberg brothers.

Matthew and Justin Scherzberg are in Afghanistan on six-month voluntary deployments. The 35-year-old identical twins from Nebraska are civil engineers, and they've been following a pretty similar path most of their lives.

First, there was the Army Reserve. Both joined to follow in their older brothers' footsteps, and to help with higher education costs. They each spent eight years in the service, deploying together to Iraq twice.

In between, there was college. Both went to the University of Nebraska (albeit to different campuses), where they earned construction management degrees. They also love to golf, swim, ski and fish -- they've even run six marathons together. So one would think there would be some sibling rivalry going on, right? Nope. It's more like they're good at motivating each other's competitive sides.

"If someone has a better marathon time, the other will try to outdo it on the next one," Justin said. "But it's all in good nature."

Now, they work together at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"I enjoyed my service as a military member and I wanted to continue that as a civilian," explained Justin, who got the USACE job right out of college.

Matt worked in the private sector for seven years but then followed in Justin's footsteps to the Corps. While he said the pay was better at his non-government job, it sent him out of town a lot and relocated him a few times -- an instability his girlfriend had grown tired of. It was a problem Justin didn't seem to have.

"Justin was working at Fort Carson for about seven years straight. I always wanted to work for the USACE in college, but I never got the opportunity right out of it," Matt said. "Justin forwarded me a USA Jobs opening, so I said, 'Now's the time.'"

Both are construction reps, meaning they focus on quality assurance, safety and contract compliance. Matt is stationed in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, and works at the Kandahar Resident Office, which oversees rebuilding projects staffed by 10 nations. Justin does pretty much the same thing at Camp Marmal in Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

"The projects range from a well to a bridge, hangar or high-voltage power line through Afghanistan," Matt said.

They do on-site inspections in the U.S., but not as much in Afghanistan. Security concerns require them to ride out in mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles.

"They drive to the site, then you hop out and look at construction for about 45 minutes, and then you get back in," Matt said. "It's a lot of effort."

Both volunteered for this tour "to see what it was like," and it's turned out to be quite a bit different from their Reserve deployments. While the construction projects are the same, the countries and the jobs are not.

"[The Reserve job] repeats itself over and over," Matt said. "Here, you see a higher level" that has given each brother a sense of purpose.

"On the military side, you do your job. But it's good to see it from this side, where you're helping to rebuild a country," Justin said.

"The local nationals or the Afghans that I met are happy that we're here and like what we're doing," Matt said.

"The country is beautiful. There are snow-capped mountains, and it's very scenic," Justin said. "That was an unexpected surprise."

The pair has largely followed in their families' footsteps. Aside from their veteran brothers, their dad, uncle and one brother are also civil engineers -- so it was pretty much in their blood to do what they're doing. One can only wonder what their next adventure together will bring.

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