The Bayonet

Wednesday, Mar. 06, 2013

Twins teach future leaders for MCCC

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It’s nothing unusual in the Army. An ROTC cadet elects to join the Infantry; he comes to Fort Benning for the basic officer course, PCSes to a new unit as a platoon leader, then deploys. Along the way, he learns not just about Army doctrine but also about the Army way of life. He might marry, have kids. He might deploy a second or third time. It’s the story of hundreds of Infantry officers over the past decade.

It’s more unusual, however, when it’s twins, in this case, Capts. Mark and Eric Evans — who, incidentally, married sisters as well. But that comes later.

Currently serving as small group leaders for the Maneuver Captains Career Course, the brothers have followed a similar career path up to this point, where they now serve together on Team 4. They say that stands to reason — they’re following a typical path for junior Infantry officers.

The journey

It started with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Troy University. Hailing from the small town of Iverness, Fla., the Evans brothers had little military history in their family but decided to take a freshman semester of ROTC.

“And here we are,” said Erik Evans. “We don’t ever make decisions like ‘Hey, we’re both going to do this,’ but I think during the course of our conversations we talk ourselves into the same course of action.”

Mark Evans, the elder twin by seconds, said he can’t pick out the defining moment when he chose to become an Army officer, but now he’s certain he wants to serve till retirement.

The fraternal twins received their commission in 2004 and headed straight for Fort Benning, where they’d trained during college. They attended the same officer leadership class before joining the 101st Airborne Division as platoon leaders. The unit deployed soon after their arrival.

“It’s interesting because you move through your career with a very good friend,” Erik Evans said.

“You always have somebody you can trust implicitly and you can be honest with. I think that helps. We were young and we were getting ready to go to war. It was good to have somebody to talk to about it. You can say stuff to him that you can’t say to other folks.”

The brothers faced their first deployment together — and it had its challenges.

“Mark got wounded and evacuated in October,” his brother said. “I got shot in December. Mom was not happy.”

The duo didn’t sustain any major injuries, and two deployments and two PCSes later, they had both graduated from the captains career course and held company command.

That’s when Erik Evans applied to become a small group leader for MCCC. Mark Evans was still in Afghanistan and slated to redeploy at the end of 2011, so his brother helped him make sure his application to instruct made it in on time.

Erik Evans said he doesn’t believe the fact that they’re both small group leaders serving at the same time on the same team is a coincidence.

“I think that is the Army actively helping us out,” he said. “It puts us on the same leave schedule. We get to work together. The Army has been very understanding.”

An Army Family

The twins said they liked being stationed together, especially at Fort Benning.

“Fort Benning’s really kind of home for us,” said Erik Evans. “It’s the closest you get to Iverness, Fla.”

Family reunions are convenient for the Evans family — but it’s not just the proximity to their hometown. The brothers share the same in-laws.

“The important thing to know about that is I was first,” said Erik Evans, who married in the summer of 2005. “I met Jenn in college, and she specifically said the words ‘I will never marry a man like Erik Evans.’ That is what you get for saying never. We got engaged my senior year, got married after Ranger School. Way more pressure than actually going to war was having to graduate Ranger School in time to make my wedding.”

His brother followed two years later. In November 2007, he married Jennifer’s sister, Julie, while the brothers were again at Fort Benning, this time attending the career course.

“I remember thinking this ought to make the holidays pretty easy,” said Mark Evans, adding that he and Julie started dating during their siblings’ extended wedding planning. “We were around each other while this is going on — and on. There have been major combat operations planned and executed in less time than it took for them to get married.”

Both couples have two boys: a fire team, they call it.

Leading Leaders

While the Evans brothers will leave their current positions next year, they are enjoying the opportunity to teach the Army’s future leaders.

“We’re basically teaching the future company commanders and operations officers.” said Mark Evans. “We teach them company-level and battalion-level tactics and maneuver. We make them masters of troop-leading procedure processes and coach them through the different types of brigades. Every day, I’m impacting 15 company commanders. Every year, I probably touch 45 to 50 in my class. You multiply — I’m affecting company commanders, which means I’m impacting companies. I honestly do believe this is the best job I could have gotten.”

Erik Evans said the job isn’t just standing at the front of the classroom teaching from a textbook.

“You’re leading this group of students through the learning process,” he said. “What makes the small group leader kind of unique to other instructors is I teach the whole course. I don’t just teach light Infantry attack; I take my students from light Infantry attack, mechanized attack, mechanized defense, Stryker urban operations attack, counterinsurgency, and then I take students through the (medical evaluation board) process. So one instructor stays with the same group. That facilitates a lot of relationship building, not only with the instructor but among the students.”

Because the course includes Soldiers with all kinds of backgrounds — civil affairs, engineering, signal, artillery, Armor and Infantry, just to name a few — the small groups facilitate a collaborative learning environment. Most groups also have international students, the brothers said, which can add a completely new perspective when planning operations. And the students are sharp, they said.

“That’s what makes this job hard,” said Mark Evans. “They are intelligent, they are informed, and they will know immediately if you don’t know what you’re talking about. This is a great course.”

Erik Evans said so far, it’s been a good refresher.

“I’m learning as much as the students are learning,” he said. “There’s always somebody there who’s current, who just left theater, who knows the latest and greatest. So you talk about it. They’re teaching me all kinds of stuff. All I do is make sure it all stays within the bounds of doctrine. Almost any officer you talk to, without fail, describes the Maneuver Captains Career Course as the best course they took in the Army, and so it’s neat to be a part of that.”

The Evans brothers don’t know what’s in store for them after this assignment. They’ll leave their positions as small group leaders next year and may or may not be stationed together again. Both agree that the Army is taking care of Families — sibling Soldiers included — but their paths may diverge in the future. Either way, they’re always no more than a plane ride away, Erik Evans said.

“From my perspective, individually, the Army’s been very good to us,” he said. “We’d like to be close, but I don’t think either one of us are altering career paths to stay near each other. I’m going to have to go where I need to go — go where the Army sends me.”

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