KSLA Salutes: African American twins are first to be promoted to rank of Lieutenant Colonel on the same day

KSLA Salutes: African American twins are first to be promoted to rank of lieutenant colonel

BENTON, La. (KSLA) -The Bowen brothers Kelvin and Melvin are pretty close.

“Our birthdays are on January 1st, and as we would say our mother and father finished it off right with twins on a holiday," Kelvin said.

These twins somehow found a way to do almost everything together. But long before they were sharing the same rank, in the same military branch, they were working in the tobacco fields of their small North Carolina town with their 11 other siblings.

“We got home from school, (and) it was ‘okay when you guys get off the bus go in the house change your clothes, grab a (garden) hoe and come on up in the field and get to work’," Melvin said.

Those around them saw they were destined for so much more, starting with their high school Army JROTC instructor Sgt. John Foye.

“Sgt. Foye had told the recruiter ‘you see those boys over there... stay away from them because they are going to college and they’re going to become officers," Kelvin said. "We never understood anything about that until we got into college and Sgt. Foye explained that to us later.”

Melvin and Kelvin soon attended North Carolina A&T State University on Air Force ROTC Scholarships. After they graduated in 1984 it was time for them to commission in the Air Force and also separate.

“We knew that we would always be able to stay in contact and whenever we start talking about our different assignments, you’ll see our paths have crossed a lot," Kelvin said.

Kelvin and Melvin Bowen back when they both served in the Air Force.
Kelvin and Melvin Bowen back when they both served in the Air Force. (Source: Kelvin Bowen)

They both came in as B-52 navigators. Kelvin switched things up and decided to become a pilot, but as fate would have it they always found a way back to each other.

“We started off at one assignment together at navigator training, then B-52 training we were at the same base," Kelvin said. "Then we split, but the funny thing is after we split there was a Red Flag exercise and both of us ended up at Nellis Air Force Base for the debrief.”

Both Melvin and Kelvin were soon confusing airmen at Barksdale Air Force Base and as they moved their way up through the ranks, it was always together.

“All of our promotions are on the same day," Kelvin said. "First Lieutenant, Captain to Major to Lt. Colonel all on the same day.

That’s right — these two were the first set of African American twins in a flying squadron to be promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel on the same day at Barksdale Air Force Base.

“One of the big things about us that we learned is don’t cut the other down," Kelvin said. "If he’s getting ahead with something, I’m there to cheer him on, if I’m getting ahead with something cheer me on.”

They cheered each other on until they both finished their journey with the Air Force in August of 2007.

“He (officiated) my retirement ceremony on a Monday, and I drove out with the family and I (officiated) his retirement ceremony that Friday," Melvin said.

While their ties to the military are close — their bond together is even closer than what meets the eye.

Melvin is currently working at the U.S. Strategic Command’s Global Operations Center at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, while Kelvin is in Bossier City working for Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base.

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