NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - (Aug. 27, 2019) (NNS) -- Hailing from Knoxville, Tennessee, the Chromczak brothers grew up about as close as brothers could be. Sharing friends, hobbies, and even the same job at times, the Chromczaks seemed destined to continue their close brotherly bond.
Answering the call to serve his country, Riley Chromczak decided to join the United States Navy, leaving Knoxville and his older brother Cody behind. Shortly after Riley joined, Cody also felt compelled to serve, following in his brother’s footsteps. Cody didn’t want to be surpassed by his younger brother. They both followed in the footsteps of a family friend and chose to become gunner’s mates.
Originally Riley was slated to leave for Recruit Training Command (RTC) Dec. 12, 2018, and Cody was slated to leave in March 2019. A week before Riley’s departure, however, their recruiter changed both of their “ship out” dates to the same day. The brothers left their hometown on Dec. 17, 2018, to the first stop of their naval career - RTC in Great Lakes, Illinois.
“Having a brother in boot camp can bring a lot of negative attention, and we were constantly compared to each other,” said Cody, a gunner’s mate seaman assigned to the weapons department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). “If one messes up, the other has to do the punishment, which led to some interesting brother intense training sessions.”
During the brothers’ time in boot camp, they were assigned to division 117. They even ended up being rack mates, and their recruit division commanders even had them stand watch together at times. Whoever walked into their compartment while they were on watch would have been greeted by both of them simultaneously sounding off.
“After graduating boot camp, we were off to gunner’s mate school at Great Lakes,” said Cody. “We had the same rooms and the same classes. We graduated number four and five out of our class and we walked side by side during the graduation.”
They initially thought that they would be split up after their time at “A” School, but they both received orders to George Washington.
“I’m glad I have had my brother with me, and I hope we never get separated from each other in the Navy,” said Cody. “We’ve heard the story about the Sullivan brothers constantly and that we would never be stationed together, but I guess everything worked out for the better.”
According to Naval History and Heritage Command, the five Sullivan brothers were all stationed aboard USS Juneau (CL-52), when the ship was sunk on Nov. 13, 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. The tragic loss of so many members of one family in one event led to the unofficial practice of siblings not being stationed on the same ship. Although rare, instances of siblings serving in the same unit or same ship can occur, as evidenced by the Chromczak brothers.
Members of the military are faced with many challenges during their careers that most civilians wouldn’t have to worry about. One example is changing duty stations every three to five years. Changing duty stations with a sibling presents a unique situation to these two, however.
“Some of the pros of joining with my brother is that you constantly have someone you know and can hang out with,” said Riley, also a gunner’s mate seaman. “If we could get stationed together for the rest of our careers it would be a blessing, instead of feeling like you have no one.”
Lt. Shineka Haskins, G-2’s division officer in weapons department, has witnessed first-hand the brothers bonding and succeeding during their time aboard George Washington.
“Having them aboard is definitely a unique situation,” said Haskins. “It makes them awesome, because they are able to study together, power through qualifications together, and compete against each other. They are learning their spaces on the ship as well as their jobs. Since checking in they have quickly become acclimated to the shipboard lifestyle.”
Only being in the fleet for a few months, the brothers’ time has just begun. There will be many opportunities for the Chromczak brothers to make an impact on George Washington. Like many Americans that have gone before them, this family has answered their country’s call.
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For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.