“Kimballs!” the drill sergeant shouted.
“Moving, drill sergeant,” echoed a response in stereo from down a trail at the Remagen hand grenade qualification course.
Suddenly two battle buddies appeared moving quickly towards the drill sergeant. In complete combat gear they look like any other set of battle buddies. But, they aren’t the run-of-the-mill Soldiers put together by the Army because their bunks were nearby, they are brothers, actually two-thirds of triplets.
The Kimballs, Pfc. Allen and Pvt. Alex, are currently in the white phase of Basic Combat Training with Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.
While some believe that twins and triplets should be Xerox copies of each other, Allen and Alex are different. Allen is taller and more outspoken, while Alex is shorter and more quiet.
“We’ve been away from home but not this long,” Allen said smiling, as the two relaxed after coming off the assault course. “It’s been very interesting being away from home. This is an all new culture with a bunch of people from all over the United States. ”
“For the most part” this is the longest the triplets — or triple-As — as they call themselves, have been apart, Alex said. “There is usually one or two of us together at a time, but being away from the third one is just completely different.”
Their sister, Allie, is in college studying to be a teacher.
The 18-year-old siblings grew up in Newport, Maine and joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in their high school before joining the National Guard — Allen as an aviation operations specialist, and Alex as an automated logistics specialist. The brothers tried to talk their sister into joining, but she already had her education planned. Allie was in Junior ROTC as well.
“She was already set up for college,” their mother, Florence Kimball Robinson, said. “They wanted her to go, but she did a lot of extra work” getting ready for school. Allen was recently accepted into the University of Maine at Orono. Alex plans to continue his education but he’s not sure where.
Allen always wanted to join the Army since he was a little kid, while Alex joined to find his calling in life.
“I had a plan” after high school, Alex said, “But then I changed my mind and I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wasn’t a 100 percent sure what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to go to college and just waste time or money.”
Allen eventually talked him into joining with him.
“I always knew that Allen would do this since he was 5 years old,” Florence said. “Alex didn’t make up his mind right away. He never talked about it before he joined.”
The Kimballs joined ranks with their step-brother, Staff Sgt. Benjamin Robinson, who has served in the Army for 16 years.
The brothers said they feel going through basic training together has been a godsend.
“You have these guys who have to start out from day one learning everybody, meeting them, and getting to know them all — and to expect them to have your back from day one,” Allen said. “While for us it’s like having your best friend you’ve known your entire life — you know you can trust them; you know they will have your back no matter what.
“You don’t have to second guess wondering what they are doing. You know what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and they know what your strengths and weaknesses are. You can always compensate for each other when needed.”
While at the Omaha buddy team assault course, one laid down covering fire as the other moved into position to provide cover as they leapfrogged up the course to attack an enemy position.
Home life vs. Army life
Their lives growing up were just like any others complete with sibling rivalries.
“It can be chaotic at times” being triplets,” Allen said. “At times you get names mixed up. It would either be me and her fighting with him, or him and her fighting with me, it could be all three of us together or each of us doing our own thing. It changed almost daily — you never really knew which sibling you would get along with.
“It does have benefits too. If one us made friends and they came over then you’d meet them and get to know them. Most likely you would get to be friends with them too.”
The brothers didn’t spend much time together at home, but in training they see each other all the time.
“After coming here we hang out all the time,” Allen said, “so everyone thinks you must always be together.”
While growing up at home the siblings had to fight to use the bathroom, it wasn’t as bad as basic training where everyone is “bum rushing” the latrines in the morning.
The drill sergeants played with them, asking things like “Are you twins?” to which they would answer yes, but they learned to respond with playfully ribbing of their own.
“When asked which one are you, we would say, ‘I’m the tall one,’ or ‘I’m the handsome one’ instead of Allen or Alex,” Alex said.
While Allen liked Victory Tower where he was able to overcome his fear of heights, Alex loved throwing hand grenades.
“At first I was little nervous about what was going to happen and the whole situation,” he said. “But after throwing it, it really gets your adrenaline pumping, like ‘oh cool, I blew something up.”
Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Van Scoy, their drill sergeant, said the brothers are good at helping each other become better Soldiers.
“They are pretty good at most of the training we do,” he said. “They encourage each other pretty well and support each other in whatever we do.”
When times were tough and one would feel like packing up and going home, the other would talk them down and help them get through it.
Their mother, while nervous as expected, said she was happy the boys are together.
“I love it,” she said. “They have been great support for each other. They’ve never been alone. They’ve always been there for each other.”