All in the family: Brothers graduate officer training together

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Two future doctors, who also happen to be brothers, finished Commissioned Officer Training as distinguished graduates Aug. 1 at Officer Training School.

The siblings, 2nd Lts. Nicholas and Michael Papacostas, were honored as distinguished graduates, in the top 10 percent of their class. Their standing was calculated by weighing academics as 50 percent, athletics as 40 percent and their flight commanders' rating as 10 percent.

"They seem to have a very tight, brotherly connection," said Lt. Col. Steve Miller, commander of the 23nd Training Squadron.

Commissioned by their cousin in 2007, the brothers have also just completed their first year of medical school. After three more years at school, they will go on to serve in residency programs, where they will rotate through different departments, ranging from pediatrics to emergency medicine. They will ultimately work as Air Force medical doctors, a commitment incurred by their status as scholarship recipients under the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program.

The brothers, who have a family history of service, including a grandfather who served in the Army during World War II, agreed that this was a way they could serve their country and be doctors.

"Doctors have to be leaders; they have to have leadership skills to coordinate their clinics," Nicholas said. "Whether you're in charge of a medical facility or not, people will look to you as a leader, whether in an emergency or a regular setting. I think the leadership skills we have developed here will be valuable to us in those endeavors."

The 23-day course is "designed to qualify the graduate to adeptly lead a unit of Air Force personnel, understand the principles of Air Force operations, and be familiar with Aerospace Expeditionary Force basic deployment skills," according to the course syllabus.

The COT training focused on the Air Force core values, the Papacostas' said. But, the brothers agreed, the training was applicable to them as doctors and officers, alike.

"There's definitely a lot of overlap," Michael said. "It's interesting how the Air Force core values of integrity, service, and excellence also apply to the medical field. For instance, there's no room for error in the medical field, just like there's no room for error in the Air Force. You have to be excellent at all times."

In true brotherly support, Nicholas added: "The values of the Air Force and the values of a physician are interwoven. There are a lot of parallels [between Airmen and doctors]. Good doctors put patients before themselves."

The brothers, the first and second oldest of a family of five siblings, said they look forward to joining their family for their younger brother's 11th birthday this weekend, after which they will head back to medical school.