AL ASAD, Iraq -- By luck of the draw, two Marines serving here with the “Black Knights” of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 have been following each other closely throughout their entire lives.Natives of Burlington Junction, a small farming community in northwestern Missouri, Cpl. Jedidiah J. Larabee and Lance Cpl. Cody A. Alexander played sports together as they attended West Nodaway Elementary School. After graduating from high school a few years later, they opted to join the Marine Corps.More than six percent of their high school graduating class enlisted in the Corps that year ... all two of them. They signed their contracts a month apart, but the intent of these two best friends was to report to basic training at the same time.Though they didn’t get to go to ‘boot camp’ together, they managed to catch up with each other after Alexander completed Marine Combat Training, a two-week course where Marines learn basic infantry skills.Larabee was already done with the course and had gone home to assist the recruiters in the area. He was meritoriously promoted to the rank of lance corporal because of his achievements.The two reported to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., where they were to attend separate schools.In a twist of fate, Larabee had to switch from the school he was assigned to originally, to the basic aviation airframes school, the same school as Alexander. His class started a week later, but now the two were to have the same job. Out of all the students going through the school, Larabee and Alexander were picked to be roommates.“Nobody knew we were friends, the names were just randomly picked and it just happened to be us,” said Alexander.When Alexander graduated he went home on a one-week vacation and later reported to Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., to go through the school where he would learn more about the CH-46E helicopter. Larabee, who was in the class a week behind in Pensacola, went straight to MCAS New River and reported there on the same day as his friend.Alexander had finished the basic aviation airframes school first and was scheduled to start classes at the Naval Air Maintenance Training Marine Unit New River before Larabee. It didn’t happen. “The class was too full so I was held back a week,” said Alexander.The two started classes the same day and were again picked to be roommates. “And still nobody knew we were friends, it just kept happening,” added Alexander.Done with their training, most graduates were assigned to units in Okinawa, Japan, and Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, Calif. Only two stayed on the East Coast: Larabee and Alexander.“We ended up in the same squadron doing the same job, which for what I’ve heard doesn’t happen often,” said Larabee. “Not even if you go in under the ‘buddy program.’”They didn’t get to be roommates at MCAS New River, but their two rooms are connected through the bathroom and they consider themselves roommates with a big room.Whenever they took breaks from work and went home they would leave in the same car, go to the same town and visit the same people. “We have the same friends. There’s not that many people in our town,” said Alexander.Though not many in the squadron know these two come from the same town and have been best friends for as long as they can remember, Alexander and Larabee are known around the squadron as ‘the brothers’ because they always hang out together.“Whenever somebody wants something done they come up to me and say ‘Go get your brother and get this done,’” said Larabee.Today, the 20-year-old Marines are in Iraq participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and are glad to be serving together. Alexander said he finds things labeled with Larabee’s name in the care packages he receives from his family.“It’s nice because whenever he gets news of what’s going on back home he keeps me informed and I keep him informed whenever I get news,” said Larabee. “If somebody back home bakes cookies for one they’ll ask what kind does the other one want. That’s always nice.”The Marine Corps is comprised of more than 172,000 men and women who take pride in being part of the smallest of the U.S. armed forces. These Marines, from a small town of approximately 500, have been following each other’s steps awfully close without even trying.“I guess that’s what happens when you have two real friends,” said Larabee.