In the military, the wingman concept has evolved in meaning – from its initial concept of jets flying alongside each other to what it is now: people who support each other on-and off-duty. For two bomber Airmen, wingmanship has an additional meaning: brotherhood.
Capts. Julien and Daniel Adams have a lot in common. They both have dark, short-cropped hair, love Korean food, and are alumni of the same university; however, the similarities don’t stop there. In fact, if surrounded by people who didn’t know them very well, the two could easily swap places for the day with nobody being the wiser – a fun perk of having an identical twin.
In the Air Force, they are barely even separated by the airframes they fly on – bomber jets.
Julien is a B-1 Lancer weapon systems officer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, while Daniel is a B-52 Stratofortress weapon systems officer assigned to the 69th BS at Minot AFB, North Dakota.
Throughout their lives, the brothers have always gone back and forth with gauging who the “better twin” is. Whether it be in sports, college or in the military, they both strived to outdo the other.
“For me, growing up, my brother was always smarter, faster, bigger, whatever,” Julien said. “I always had to work harder and try harder to catch up to him. I did that all throughout my life and … today, I still feel like I am still catching up to him.”
Even though Julien felt like he was always following his brother, when it came to joining the military, he led the way.
“I joined ROTC first – my brother joined a semester later,” Julien explained.
Daniel stated that his path toward the bomber community began immediately after college; however, Julien went another route in the beginning of his military career.
“When I attended college, I joined the Air Force ROTC program … and became a security forces officer,” Julien said. “I was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, and after three and a half years of doing that, I [had] the opportunity to cross-train to switch to the flying side of the house. That was what altered my path to become a B-1 weapon systems officer.”
As military brats, the Adams family duo were no strangers to a life of service. They did, however, grow up in a fairly unique situation – prior to college, they’d never lived in the United States.
“Having grown up in Japan and moving base to base was something we were accustomed to,” Daniel explained. “Ultimately, when we moved back to the U.S. to go to college, it was almost a shell shock. There were a lot of growing pains learning how to live in America.”
During their journey from college into adult life, there was always one constant source of support: their parents. Julien expressed how, in the initial phase of career planning, he intended to enlist, but his parents advised him to attend college and see where that path led him.
“One of the biggest influences for us is our parents,” Daniel said. “My dad was retired Marine Corps, so that is what we grew up knowing. They were always supporting us.”
Although their parents instilled values that brought the brothers together, their beliefs of what their careers should look like differed drastically while growing up.
Julien mentioned his goal to literally reach for the stars and how each career path, to include the Air Force, is all to help him go to space. His brother, on the other hand, wasn’t entirely sold on joining the military at first.
“Growing up, I never did dream about being a bomber weapon systems officer,” Daniel explained. “However, doing my job now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. So, was it a dream come true? Not necessarily. Is it a dream that I am living? Yes.”
Though the B-1 and B-52 airframes both serve the bomber mission, like the twins, they also have some competitive differences. Discussing those differences between the two brothers is a sure-fire way to stir up a good-natured debate. Just like the two brothers want to outdo each other in life, they are also competitive in their individual beliefs that their bomber is the top dog.
When the brothers were recently asked if they would consider flying on the other’s jet for the day, Daniel said he wouldn’t mind giving it a shot. Julien, on the other hand, felt differently and decided to poke a little fun at his younger sibling.
“Do I want to eject downwards?” he asked and threw his hands up in the air as if to punctuate his question and laughed.
With that statement, banter erupted. From joking about the all-weather capability of the B-1 and the “generational capability” of the B-52 – the fact that a grandfather, a father and a son could all have flown on this aircraft since its Air Force debut in 1955 – to debating the merits of actually being capable of going supersonic, the brothers tried to assert whose airframe was better.
Behind the grins and snarky remarks, the twins admitted two things when it came to their choices of bombers: The airframes look different, but when it comes to the mission of deterring adversaries and supporting allies by ensuring bombs are on target, both the B-1 and the B-52 are on point.
Though they joke around, the brothers have a mutual respect for each other and their bombers. They will even grudgingly concede that there are aspects of each other’s aircraft that they appreciate. Daniel admitted that the B-1’s capability to go supersonic is pretty impressive. The B-52’s best feature, from Julien’s perspective, is the five-man crew.
“One of the biggest things, and a strongpoint for the bomber community, is we have more people on the jet,” Julien said. “Having four or five individuals in there brings more knowledge to the fight. So the B-52 having five, they are able to [spread out their tasks more] than if you had a crew of only four, like the B-1s.”
If either of the brothers ever find themselves in need of a wingman – whether in their lives or careers – the two happily set their rivalries aside. The two also proud to have a brother and peer to lean on.
Throughout their lives, the Adams brothers have consistently embodied the value of brotherhood, and in the Air Force, their commitment to family takes a different look at wingmanship. It isn’t what makes a person the same or different that makes Airmen come together — it is the understanding that no matter the distance, there is always someone there to support them.