Italian-born identical twins wrapped up two years of training July 27 aboard Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi, to earn their “wings of gold” as U.S. Marine Corps aviators.

Capt. Matteo Occhipinti and his twin brother, Lt. Andrea “Andy” Occhipinti, completed the course in the T-45C “Goshawk” as part of Training Squadron Seven, a Navy release said.

After spending their early years in Italy, the family packed up and moved for a new life in the United States when the boys were 6 years old.

“When I got off the plane in the U.S., I remember I had a model airplane in my hand,” said Matteo. “That may have been a sign I would become an aviator.”

As 16-year-olds, the brothers visited a recruiting center. It was then that the idea of a military career, in its infancy, began to blossom. Before long, the appeal of becoming Marines outweighed all other options.

“We wanted to serve something bigger than ourselves,” Matteo said. “The Marine Corps demanded something from us while the other branches offered us something.”

The officers were commissioned at separate times and went through different pathways to attaining their engineering degrees — Matteo went to the University of Illinois at Chicago while Andy went to the Illinois Institute of Technology — but once reunited, the brotherly bond helped with training and studying, they said in the release.

“We’ve always relied on each other as study partners,” said Matteo. “I think it’s going to be great even though we’re doing different things. …We did struggle some. This program is very difficult, but with the help of VT-7 and its leadership we improved and are excited to see where the future will take us.”

The future will take the twins on different paths once again. Andy is destined for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, where he’ll get behind the controls of an F-18 Hornet. Matteo, meanwhile, is headed for MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, to fly the F-35, the release said.

No matter where the Marine Corps takes them, the twins remain excited for a challenge.

“Today’s the start of my eight-year contract,” Andy said. “I cannot wait to do the rest of it.”

“We’ve completed a milestone,” Matteo added, “and now it’s time to see the world.”