They look and sound alike. But Lieutenant (LTA) Rasmus Chow and LTA Rastus Chow are charting their own courses in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).
Some faces launch a thousand ships. But with identical twins LTA Rasmus and LTA Rastus, their faces stop even their closest family members and friends in their tracks.
"Rasmus? Rastus? Shucks, I cannot remember who is who!" several passing colleagues exclaimed throughout the interview.
At a glance, it's impossible to tell the 25-year-olds apart: both share the same warm smile and assuring tone of voice. But spend some time with them, and you'll notice the difference.
Big brother LTA Rasmus, older by a minute, is contemplative and speaks in a careful, measured tone. Younger brother LTA Rastus, on the other hand, seems like a carefree spirit and is open and chatty.
Nonetheless, the mistaken identity still amuses them and they are happy to play along, admitting that they once swapped schools for a day as a prank when they were posted to different junior colleges.
Moving as one
Like most twins, LTA Rasmus and LTA Rastus grew up leading virtually identical lives. "All our lives, we were known as 'The Twins' - if people saw one, they would ask about the other," LTA Rastus explained.
Besides attending the same schools, having the same friends and taking part in the same activities, LTA Rasmus divulged that he once changed schools to be closer to his brother: "We were actually posted to different secondary schools, but my dad persuaded me to transfer to my brother's school."
Even the decision to pursue careers in the Navy was a joint one. Armed with diplomas in Banking and Financial Services, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic alumni had originally intended to follow in the footsteps of their father, who is a financial advisor.
But a meeting with RSN recruitment officers during Basic Military Training (BMT) changed that.
Said LTA Rasmus: "As Naval Officers, we may eventually be able to command our own ship. We thought that was something to aspire towards. What also attracted us was the chance to experience a different, exciting career."
Boys t(w)o men
Six years on, both brothers are enjoying their roles as Assistant Navigating Officers (ANOs).
But here's where their stories diverge. While LTA Rasmus has opted to hone his warfighting skills on board the Frigate, LTA Rastus' platform of choice is the Landing Ship Tank (LST).
Said LTA Rasmus: "I'm interested in warfare, which the Frigates focus on. When we sail, we conduct warfare serials, and that's what I wanted to do - to be at the forefront of our Navy."
Meanwhile, LTA Rastus was drawn to the LST's operations: "I'm particularly interested in peace support and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. It's also cool that the LST is a tri-Service platform that works closely with the Army and Air Force. This inter-force collaboration appeals to me."
The pair has Officer Cadet School (OCS) to thank for helping them to find their unique identities. After being in the same section in BMT, they were split into different divisions by their OCS commanders. Both agreed that this was their defining moment.
LTA Rastus recalled: "I learnt not to depend on my brother so much, but to depend on myself and my division-mates. I also saw the need to develop myself so that I could develop others."
As for LTA Rasmus, being in OCS gave him the confidence to stand up and lead: "At first, I didn't know how to be a leader and handle disagreements. But it was a good opportunity for me to learn how to get people to come together to achieve an objective."
Apart, but together
These days, LTA Rasmus and LTA Rastus are no longer simply known as "The Twins". They have also have gone on to pursue different interests under the Singapore Armed Forces Academic Scholarship (Local): LTA Rasmus holds a degree in Business Administration while LTA Rastus read Political Science.
They are now confidently asserting their own individualities, with LTA Rasmus working on board RSS Formidable and LTA Rastus, RSS Endurance. They also insist that they have never pranked their Navy colleagues. Nonetheless, they had one message for all PIONEER readers: "Please let people know that there are two of us."
"Yes, otherwise (if they meet and mistake one of us for the other,) they might smile at us and wonder why we don't smile back."