TWINS SERVE TOGETHER

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Rarely apart for their 22 years, the Yingling twins were happy for each other's company while serving in Saudi Arabia.

"(Bob and Chris) called a couple of times and said they were glad they were together," said their father, Robert Yingling. "So what can a parent do but support that decision?"

Both men -- military policemen with the 350th Air Force Unit based at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, N.C. -- spent the last four months patrolling a U.S. air base in the United Arab Emirates.

"The AirForce doesn't send individual people; they send units," said Robert.

However, since Chris was away on temporary duty at a riflery competition, he wasn't sent to the Middle East with his brother Aug. 9.

"(Chris) came back to the base, and it was empty," Robert said. "Hestayed about a week and then decided he wanted to be with his brother."

About 10 days later, when the Air Force was looking for more security specialists, Chris volunteered and rejoined his unit.

Frequent phone calls home reassured Robert and his wife, Carole, that their sons were all right.

"We didn't know exactly where they were, but when it got closer to the deadline, they called to reassure us about once a month," said Robert. "They really supported each other."

However, Robert said it was still necessary to be strong during the war.

"Fathers cry too, although you don't see it," he said. "I spent many days in the car wondering about what they were doing."

Robert said his biggest concern while his sons were in Saudi Arabia was terrorism.

"I had faith that my sons were trained and they knew their jobs," he said. "But terrorism is the single most fear I had."

Robert said that while all soldiers have families and recognize thattheir opponents do also, it is frightening that a terrorist is willing to sacrifice himself for his cause.

"War is terrible, but terrorism is horrible," he said.

Since the twins usually worked a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, the Liberty High graduates rarely had a chance togo into town, their father said.

They would work for about 18 days and then have around four days off, he said.

"There were no bars, so they said the biggest things in town were a Baskin-Robbins and aPizza Hut," Robert said.

He said people often question why the twins were allowed to serve together, since the Sullivan law prohibits brothers from serving on the same ship.

"I know that the Air Forcewon't let them fly in the same plane, and I think the Navy still (follows that rule)," Robert said. "But (both men) stayed in the same tent.

"I never gave it much thought."

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CAPTION:After initially being separated when the 350th Air Force Unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf, Chris and Bob Yingling were reunited.

ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO 2

CAPTION: Chris and Bob Yingling of Eldersburg spent the past four months patrolling a U.S. air base in the United Arab Emirates with their 350th Air Force Unit.

SOLDIER VISITS STUDENTS

MOUNT AIRY -- Among the things that brightened Army Spc. Eric McGiffin's days on duty in Saudi Arabia were the many letters from students in the county.

"(Eric) told me that when one of the guys would get a letter from a little kid, they'd all sit and read it," said his father, Jerry McGiffin of here. "They all really enjoyed it."

A few weeks ago, Robert Moton Elementary students -- who sent the 22-year-old military policeman a piece of drawing paper with all their signatures -- met their military pen pal who shared experiences about the war in Iraq.

Eric showed the 6- and 7-year-olds photographs he took in the gulf and his chemical weapons suit.He answered questions about conditions in the Middle East.

Students from Hampstead Elementary, New Market (Pa.) Middle, and Winfield Elementary -- Eric's alma mater -- also wrote to members of the Army's503rd MP Battalion.

"He wrote to the principal (at Winfield), told him he went to school there and sent his address in case anyone wanted to write to him," Jerry said. "He said all of a sudden the mail started pouring in."

Among Eric's responsibilities was driving the prisoners of war to the camps, his father said.

"He drove about 200 prisoners in buses up the Euphrates River," Jerry said. "(Eric) said he felt kind of sorry for the Iraqis, being part of a big war machine that was set up to get bombed."

While in the county, the South Carroll High graduate, his wife, Jennifer, and 1 1/2-year-old son, Gary, spent time visiting family and friends in Sykesville and Mount Airy.

The family returned to base in Fort Bragg, N.C., early last week.

"It was really great to have him home," his father said. "We were all very pleased."

"I had the same feelings, but not exactly,when I see other soldiers come back," Jerry said. "All this support is really wonderful."

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CAPTION: ERIC McGIFFIN

Visited students who sent letters

HOME AGAIN FROM TURKEY

HAMPSTEAD -- Although he's glad to be home after serving in Turkey since Dec. 15, Airman 1st Class Brian E. Davidson wishes it were under different circumstances.

The 19-year-old North Carroll High graduate returned to the county from his station in the Iraqi war a few weeks ago on emergency medical leave; his father is ill.

"It's great to come home, but I wish it didn't have to be because my father's sick," Davidson said. "I deal with it as it comes."

He is scheduled toreturn to his regular base in Bitburg, Germany, Tuesday.

A weapons loader for the F-15's at Incirlik Air Base, Davidson said he workedfrom 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week until two weeks before the ground war started.

The men then worked six days on and one day off, he said.

"It wasn't too bad," he said. "It was a lot better thanthe guys in Saudi had."

However, the troops didn't see much of Turkey because they were confined to base during most of their stay, Davidson said.

Most Turkish people opposed the U.S. involvement in the gulf war, and when the service people were allowed into town, theywent only to certain parts of the city.

"I guess the Turkish people close to the base liked the U.S. because they were used to us and we bought things in their stores," Davidson said. "But farther into town, (an American) man was shot and killed."

A lieutenant colonel who lived in the downtown area was shot several times in the face, hesaid.

"(The Army) just didn't want us to have to deal with it."

Since returning home, the son of Larry and Ruth Davidson has visited elementary students who wrote to him while he was serving in Turkey.

"I compared my job to a car mechanic's," he said. "I told them Ifix the weapons system when things break."

Fifth-graders and special education classes from Taneytown Elementary learned about him because their teacher lives close to his home, Davidson said.

Hampstead Elementary fifth-graders wrote to him because one of the students lives next to his aunt, he said.

Davidson said he was happy to seethe support for the troops when he came home, but was disappointed in the news coverage, particularly by CNN.

Service people would watch the reports on a wide-screen television in the base's recreation center, he said.

"The CNN coverage was so vague and unspecific. It got families worried about something they didn't have to worry about," he said. "They should have waited until they had hard facts, ratherthan reporting the rumors they heard."

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CAPTION: BRIAN E. DAVIDSON

Served at air base in Turkey

FAMILY MEETS SOLDIER

WESTMINSTER -- The youngest niece and nephew of Philip J. Grant met their uncle for the first time last week when they were among the family group welcoming him home after serving for five months in the Persian Gulf.

Five nieces and nephews, his brother, two sisters, brothers-in-law and girlfriend rushed to the airport with his parents, Joe and Vivian Grant, to greet the family member they hadn't seen in more than a year.

Grant, a U.S. Army specialist with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Division, is a scout on a Bradley fighting vehicle. His unit -- normally stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas -- had expected to fight the Iraqi Republican Guard.

The 21-year-old soldier said he and his crew never engaged in combat and met only afew Iraqi soldiers after the cease fire.

Using a map, one of the men showed the Americans where he lived and asked them for a ride home.

However, the fighting was all around them, and their troop captured almost 150 Iraqis, he said.

Now that Grant is on leave, he said he plans to spend some time alone because he's been with the samepeople for a long time.

After that, he hopes to spend time makingup for holidays and birthdays he's missed with friends and family.

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