The Super Bowl has the Kelce Brothers, the AF has the Oliver Brothers

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Pedro Tenorio

Did you know that the Wright brothers only flew together once? It was unwise for both of them to risk both of their lives at one time, but they decided the call for brotherly bonding was a risk worth taking.

That is exactly what happened when two brothers met for an exercise here on Guam and decided to shoot their shot to get approval to fly together before one of them leaves the active duty service.

Maj. Michael “Deuce” Oliver, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, F-22 Raptor pilot, and his little brother 1st Lt. Matthew “Shoots” Oliver, 13th Fighter Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, both followed in their family’s footsteps.

With 12 years under Deuce’s belt, he has been having an internal battle on whether he is going to transfer out of active duty, meanwhile, his little brother is just starting his career. For this reason, along with some other factors, it prompted them to try to create some final memories while they are both active duty Air Force pilots. There was one problem though – the law.

“There’s a regulation called DAFMAN 11-401,” said Deuce. “There’s a rule in there that says commanders will ensure that families do not fly together to the maximum extent possible for the reason that you hopefully, don’t have to make the ‘phone call’ twice.”

The brothers have always adhered to this rule even at other exercises.

The most recent time this happened was in August 2022, when Deuce was unable to join a large force exercise with his brother due to mechanical issues with his F-22. In the same exercise, they were in the elephant walk but their planes never integrated and they never got to see each other in the sky.

With time ticking down, Deuce saw an opportunity for the brothers to be reunited again during Cope North 2023 at Andersen AFB, Guam. Deuce as an air boss and Shoots as a participant.

“It was only when I got here and realized [the 13th FS] has a two seater…,” said Deuce. “As an air boss, they give us the authority to fly in other planes during the exercise to understand what’s going on. There’s utility in that and when I realized that I was like, ‘Oh! We can do that, but I can fly with my brother instead.”’

Due to DAFMAN 11-401, the brothers had to get permission from the commander in order to fly together.

“For the exercise we all fell under the 36th Wing so we put the request in,” said Deuce. “[We] just thought it would be kind of like the Kelce brothers, except this is our own little super bowl. How often do you ever have the opportunity to fly with your brother?”

With the power of brotherly bonds and the rationale that he could utilize this experience to do his job as an air boss during the exercise, Brig. Gen. Paul Birch, 36th Wing commander, gave the go ahead for this historic occasion.

The Air Force has not seen siblings in the same fighter aircraft in decades. Not only did the brothers enjoy the ride as siblings, but they experienced each other’s different flying styles as well.

“It was fun to see the differences,” said Shoots. “The funniest thing that happened was we were flying ‘bout a half mile from the other airplane and he [other pilot] gives us a signal. [As a 4th generation fighter pilot] I know the signal, but [Deuce] doesn’t know. He’s just like ‘what was that?’ The other plane did it again, he’s like ‘what do you mean?’ That was when I was like, ‘ok I’m going to take the aircraft. I can’t believe I have to do this right now.’”

They didn’t want to ruin the good faith put in them for future family members wanting to create memories, so their focus was still on the mission at hand.

“We knew that this was such a rare opportunity and we didn’t want to screw it up for everybody else,” said Deuce. “I’ve read articles of two brothers getting to dogfight each other, but haven’t seen any of this. And to say we followed all the rules, got the right approval authority, this was a great opportunity. It’s our own super bowl, it’s as cool as it gets for us.”

It was their personal super bowl and a personal memory they will both share for the rest of their lives, whether in the Air Force or out.

“It was really cool to watch him from the big brother side but also from the pilot side,” said Deuce. “If I don’t go into the National Guard, this is the last hurrah. Hopefully, I get to do more stuff like this in the guard or reserve, but if not, one of my last flights was with my little brother.”