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Brothers in life, brothers in-arms reunite downrange

U. S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Roche, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Wing operations director, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Roche, G Company, 1st Battalion, 189 Aviation Regiment medical evacuation helicopter pilot, found each other at an undisclosed area for approximately three hours to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Roche, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Wing director of operations, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Roche, G Company, 1-189 Aviation Regiment medical evacuation helicopter pilot, embrace October 12, 2017 while posing for a photo. The brothers were able to catch up for about three hours while deployed in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Hemquist)

Southwest Asia -- Saying goodbye to family members before a deployment can be stressful. But rarely does a service member cross paths with a sibling while downrange; this recent uplifting experience was the case for two brothers on separate paths.

U. S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Roche, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron operations director, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Roche, G Company, 1st Battalion, 189 Aviation Regiment medical evacuation helicopter pilot, found each other at an undisclosed area for approximately three hours to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.

“It was a surreal experience,” said Brian. “Had you asked me in January if I would be able to see my brother halfway across the world, I’d have told you flat-out, no. There was a strange sense of normalcy in a region that is anything but.”

Their father passed away earlier this year and the last time the brothers saw each other was at their father’s funeral. Brian, who deployed at the beginning of the year briefly returned home to be with family during the burial.

Kevin said that his mother became very emotional after witnessing photos of their reunion.

“The idea of being deployed in a combat environment and crossing each other’s paths never occurred to us,” said Kevin. “Our missions didn’t particularly line up but seeing each other this close to the holidays and sharing our experiences since our dad passed away was very meaningful to me.”

Their father served as a U.S. Marine for a full career. The Roche brothers knew they were on track for military professions and followed in the footsteps of a long line of relatives who served their country dating back to World War I, Kevin explained.

“Our wives were ecstatic to see the two of us together,” said Kevin. “This was just a reminder that even though we are away from that part of the family, we are not necessarily away from all of the family.” 

Kevin has been in the Air Force for 16 years and his home station for the last 10 years has been with the Minnesota Air National Guard, 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the 133rd Operations Support Squadron commander and he pilots the C-130H aircraft.

Brian was one of 70 soldiers who deployed to Southwest Asia with the Oregon Army National Guard from Salem, Oregon. He flies the HH-60M Black Hawk, a four-blade, twin-turboshaft utility helicopter.

Brian has been flying with a folded casket flag in his aircraft since his father’s passing. He was able to pass this along to Kevin in person during the reunion, and now it’s flown all over the theater, in multiple types of aircraft, and on different missions.

Between the two of them, they share a total of seven deployments.

“I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to be just a fraction of the man that my father was. Getting a chance to see my brother while deployed reminds me that we’re doing all right.”