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Twins reunite aboard USS Roosevelt's Tiger Cruise

CAMPBELLSPORT, Wis. – Senior Airman Rose Gudex and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex, both natives of Campbellsport, Wis., joined the military in 2013 and went their separate ways when they got stationed across the nation from each other. They were reunited Nov. 15, 215 for the 2015 USS Theodore Roosevelt Tiger Cruise where Sailors were allowed to bring family and friends aboard the ship with them for the last week of their deployment. (courtesy photo)

CAMPBELLSPORT, Wis. – Senior Airman Rose Gudex and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex, both natives of Campbellsport, Wis., joined the military in 2013 and went their separate ways when they got stationed across the nation from each other. They were reunited Nov. 15, 215 for the 2015 USS Theodore Roosevelt Tiger Cruise where Sailors were allowed to bring family and friends aboard the ship with them for the last week of their deployment. (courtesy photo)

PACIFIC OCEAN – Senior Airman Rose Gudex poses for a photo with her co-sponsor, Electrician’s Mate Fireman Nicole LaBruzzo, before a gun power demonstration aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 19, 2015. Gudex was on the Roosevelt for the 2015 Tiger Cruise where family and friends of Sailors and Marines were able to experience life aboard a ship for the final week of their deployment. Gudex was visiting her twin brother, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski)

PACIFIC OCEAN – Senior Airman Rose Gudex poses for a photo with her co-sponsor, Electrician’s Mate Fireman Nicole LaBruzzo, before a gun power demonstration aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 19, 2015. Gudex was on the Roosevelt for the 2015 Tiger Cruise where family and friends of Sailors and Marines were able to experience life aboard a ship for the final week of their deployment. Gudex was visiting her twin brother, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski)

PACIFIC OCEAN – Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex works on the wiring of one of the air conditioning plants of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 20, 2015. His twin sister, Air Force Senior Airman Rose Gudex, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, was aboard the ship with him, along with more than 700 others, to experience shipboard life from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. (courtesy photo)

PACIFIC OCEAN – Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex works on the wiring of one of the air conditioning plants of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Nov. 20, 2015. His twin sister, Air Force Senior Airman Rose Gudex, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, was aboard the ship with him, along with more than 700 others, to experience shipboard life from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. (courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It's often difficult to tell twins apart. They do everything together and are inseparable, but that's not the case with my twin and I. We're very different.

First of all, we're brother and sister - fraternal twins. We don't even look like siblings, much less twins. After high school, I went to college and he joined the work force, but we both eventually decided to join the military.

Ray left for Navy basic training Sept. 9, 2013, and I left for Air Force basic training shortly after on Dec. 3. Even then, the rivalry between siblings and services was strong, but the bond we had as twins was stronger.

That bond was tested when Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Ray Gudex left in March for his first deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. I could no longer call or video chat with him whenever I wanted. I waited for random calls when the ship pulled into a port somewhere in the Middle East and his cell phone had service.

During one of those calls I was ecstatic to find out about an opportunity known as a tiger cruise that would allow family and friends to join their Sailor on the ship for the last seven days of their deployment from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. All I had to do was find my way from Peterson AFB to Hawaii and bring the ship back. I immediately told my brother to sign me up.

When I arrived to Joint Base Pearl Harbor - Hickam on Nov. 15, the ship was already docked and I craned my neck towards the ship while I waited to check in, as if I would be able to spot Ray out of 5,000 others.

I made my way to the end of the pier and waited what seemed like forever until I saw my tall, gangly twin stroll down the pier to the gate. My eyes followed him weave through all the others and saw him give a brief, small smile when he found me.

I squeezed him hard when he finally made it to me. He awkwardly patted my back, introduced me to my co-sponsor, Electrician's Mate Fireman Nicole LaBruzzo, and told me to grab my bags so we could get on the ship. I promise we're close, although he acts like a long-lost relative sometimes.

LaBruzzo took me to her berthing, the engineering department's living quarters, to drop my stuff off. The beds were arranged in what they called a "six pack," stacked three high and on each side of the aisle, giving the feel of what I imagine an ant farm feels like. Lucky me, I got a middle rack.

She showed me the essentials like where the showers and head was - if I call it a bathroom my brother won't forgive me. Then Ray showed me so much of the ship I was getting confused and just followed him around like a lost puppy to and from his shop.

He works in the aviation ordnance electrical shop, where he and his coworkers spend countless hours outside the shop fixing aircraft charging stations, motor generators, air conditioning plants and much more. If something electrical doesn't work on the ship, someone in his shop will make sure it's mission ready again soon.

I toured as much as I could between the time I boarded the ship and when we pulled out of Pearl Harbor on Nov. 17. As the ship began to move, Sailors and Marines manned the rails and paid respects as we passed the USS Arizona Memorial.

Once out to sea, if the civilian clothes didn't give away the tigers, the staggering down corridors, slowly ascending and descending ladder wells and general look of confusion did. I was one of over 700 tigers who wandered with our sponsors trying to make sense of the bulls-eyes, which supposedly told us where on the ship we were.

It took a couple days to get the hang of sometimes having to go up a level just to move over and go back down a level to get to a destination. Sometimes it felt harder to go down than up the ladder wells as the ship moved, and getting in and out of my rack as the ship moved side to side was interesting, although being rocked to sleep was pretty nice.

I went on duty with my brother and tagged along on a few jobs, mostly in the engine rooms. The further we went down, the smaller the scuttle, or hatch to go down, and the steeper the ladder wells, making hitting my knees and head a common occurrence.

Once I began to get the hang of things, sort of, I began to drag my brother to events held, usually in the hangar bay, for us tigers. We attended a steel beach picnic, a talent show, a fair to see what different squadrons and shops do, an air power demonstration, gun power demonstration and a couple guided tours.

There were some fitness challenges I tried to convince Ray to compete in, but he doesn't like challenges as I do. Instead of competing, he held my water bottle while I did the Murph Challenge with a couple of his coworkers. We ran a mile, did 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and then ran another mile, all the while my brother was my cheerleader.

When land began to peek over the horizon the morning of Nov. 23, it was my turn to support Ray. After more than eight months at sea, the Roosevelt and its crew were finally pulling in to their new home port. The land got bigger and bigger, the ship moored on the pier and the crowd shrieked for joy.

I followed my brother down the gangplank and through an arch of red, white and blue balloons. Signs welcoming loved ones home surrounded us and being a part of that with my brother was indescribable. I felt such pride for my brother's service and hard work while on deployment.

A short ride to the airport and a heartfelt hug later and we were on separate flights out of San Diego, my brother back to Wisconsin to see our family and me back to Colorado. Our time together wasn't nearly long enough, but I can always make fun of him over the phone, too.