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Around The Fleet

Strength Through Separation

Twin siblings deal with separation at boot camp

After spending 19 years together at one another's side, twin siblings Seaman Recruit Savannah Sturgis and Seaman Recruit Joseph Sturgis found motivation in their separation during boot camp at Recruit Training Command (RTC), Great Lakes.

The recruits, who hail from Mukilteo, Washington have spent the past eight weeks dealing with the rigors of training on top of being unable to communicate with each other. However, it was each other's absence that helped fuel their determination to stay focused and succeed individually in boot camp.

"We've always been kind of competitive and just knowing my sister is on base, whenever I'm having a hard time, I can just think that, 'Oh, Savannah's here. If she can do this, I can do this,'" Joseph said.

Prior to arriving at RTC, the twins worked in their family business and both had aspirations to join the Navy.

"My dad is a big influence as he was in the Navy during the 70s as a yeoman for eight years," Savannah said.

We have had many generations of our family in the Navy so this is a family tradition."
-SR Savannah Sturgis

Joseph's original plan was to attend college and join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and had already been accepted to the University of Idaho. However, before he left for school, he realized that enlisting would be the better option for him.

"I decided I wanted to make my dad proud as I always looked up to him," Joseph said. "I've always listened to the stories he's told and what he said about his experience in the Navy. I just wanted to be like him; he's my hero - that's why I joined."

Prior to boot camp, the twins had their first taste of separation when Joseph attended a national Eagle Scout program. Both agreed the situation was difficult for them.

"It was hard then because we've been together our whole lives and we're used to each other," said Joseph.

Photo collage of twin siblings Savannah and Joseph Sturgis standing by flag, studying and looking in locker

Later on, Joseph left for boot camp a week prior to his sister and they trained in separate divisions. They quickly learned that they would be unable to have any contact with one another in accordance with command rules which dictate that recruit-to-recruit contact is not allowed. This included letter writing to one another.

I was always keeping an eye out for her, looking around. We're not supposed to communicate, but I always kept an eye out to see if I could spot her."
-SR Joseph Sturgis

In the few times they were able to spot one another, the silent communication between them was all that was needed to reassure them that the other one was doing well. A few times, they were able to see each other across the way while attending chapel services.

"We've spent 19 years together and knowing that she's within walking distance - within a half mile - and I have no idea where she is and we can't see other is very different," Joseph said. "It makes it a bit harder but what runs through my mind is that I am trusting in God that she is alright."

And it's that very trust that has also comforted Savannah who recognizes the benefit of having a sibling in boot camp.

"When recruits get here and they get homesick as most do, for me, I didn't feel homesick because I know my brother is here on base," Savannah said. "Every time we see each other, if one looks a little down or stressed out, we do a thumbs up, give each other the 'the look' to see if the other is okay and to keep going, muscle through it. It's a good advantage, knowing we're close."

Savannah describes how, prior to boot camp, she was the shy one who always allowed her brother to speak for her. With the guidance of her Recruit Division Commanders (RDC), she has been able to find her own voice.

"Without Joe by my side, my RDCs helped me find my confidence to speak and stand up and develop good verbal skills as opposed to clamming up," Savannah said. "They gave me the motivation and it made me more disciplined as a person."

I'm really thankful for my RDCs because they've really helped me come out of my shell."
-SR Savannah Sturgis

"I'm also surprised she is talking this much. I'm not used to it," Joseph said.

Every division at RTC has a recruit chain of command in order for the recruits to become accustomed to how proper communication works in the Fleet.

"When we picked her up during the first week of training, she was very shy, head held down, trying to stay out of the limelight. Then throughout the week after her first fitness test, we noticed that she was picking things up quickly so we decided to put her on ship staff. That's when we started to notice the changes as she began to accept more responsibility," Culinary Specialist 1st Class Moses Brathwaite Jr., Savannah's RDC, said. "She eventually took over as the Recruit Chief Petty Officer, which is the division's senior recruit, and she's doing a very good job at it. She's actually taken charge and getting other recruits to do things and making sure they're on time and where they're supposed to be. She's become a very responsible recruit."

Brathwaite said he has seen numerous siblings in boot camp and recognizes the benefit of having one's sibling here.

"It's an internal motivator for them," Brathwaite said.

We've had other siblings together in training and you see the benefit they have when they see each other in passing and they give each other that kind of proverbial nod, and it motivates them to want to continue to do good for the sake of the other person."
-CS1 Moses Brathwaite, Jr.

The separation will continue as they will attend separate "A" Schools for their follow-on training as Joseph, who graduated Dec. 31, begins training as a Nuclear Electrician's Technician in Goose Creek, South Carolina, and Savannah who graduated Jan. 8, remains in Great Lakes for Electrician's Mate training.

Both claim they are ready to move forward as boot camp has helped prepare them for what lies ahead.

"We grew up being together our whole lives and now we're going to be separated; that's how life works," Joseph said. "Boot camp is just the starting point. We're always going to be close to one another, but we're getting used to not being around each other all the time."

As they look back on their boot camp experience, the twins take stock in what they have gained through their experience and offer advice to any incoming siblings.

"If you can't talk to each other or communicate it's only for two months, it's not forever," Joseph said. "Just trust in one another and remember each other's strengths and know that you both will get through it. This is only temporary."

"Two months is a long time for some people while here but he's right, it's not forever," Savannah said. "What got me through this is that my brother was here. I want to graduate and I want to make my family proud and my brother is doing the same thing."
Photo collage of sisters in their midshipman uniform posing for a photo with their brother and mother