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Real brothers in arms compete Two area lieutenant colonels beat the odds; one heads ROTC at Canisius, the other at NU JAMES SOOS, ROTC COMMANDER: "The competition between us is to produce the best possible second lieutenants in the country."

Two brothers have returned home to their native roots in search of more than just a few good recruits.

James and Patrick Soos, both lieutenant colonels in the Army, have been placed in charge of competing ROTC programs at Canisius College and Niagara University.

"If you're brothers, there's always some friendly competition. The competition between us is to produce the best possible second lieutenants in the country," said 39-year-old James Soos.

"We're brothers yet rivals," 40-year-old Patrick Soos said of the unusual arrangement that led to their new assignments. "I'm sure we are the only brother team in the United States who are rival military science department chairmen in the same area."

Raised in North Tonawanda, the brothers both requested ROTC commands and listed the Buffalo Niagara region at the top of their respective wish lists for assignments.

As a result, they both ended up assigned to the officer training programs that gave them their starts in the military.

Patrick Soos runs the Niagara University program; James Soos, the Canisius College program.

Coincidence?

"We were selected by a Department of Army board for battalion commanders. They looked at over 500 files of guys applying for professor of military science, so it is pretty competitive," Patrick Soos said.

But with the uncommon last name of Soos, he speculated that board members probably realized they were brothers when deciding placement, though nothing officially was ever mentioned.

In any case, the brothers are happy to be back home in familiar surroundings after military assignments that have taken them around the world the last two decades.

James Soos, a quartermaster when in the field carrying out military operations, has served in Bosnia, Turkey and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"My job was to man, arm, fuel and fix. We call it 'move and sustain.' It involves the convoys you see that are supporting the troops," said James Soos, who has settled with his wife and two children in Williamsville.

Patrick Soos, now a Grand Island resident with his wife and four children, served as a transportation coordinator, moving supplies and troops in the Panama invasion, Operation Just Cause, in 1989-1990, which involved the successful removal of dictator Manuel Noriega.

Their collective military experiences, the brothers Soos say, give them the insights needed to help cadets become capable second lieutenants upon graduation from college.

"There are 270 colleges in the country with ROTC producing programs, and we want to be among the best," said James Soos, who previously served with the 10th Mountain Division in Watertown.

For a cadet to have a successful experience, the brothers say, a recruit should have leadership qualities -- the same qualities, they say, propelled them to sign up for ROTC when they were young.

Both brothers served as class presidents at North Tonawanda High School, advanced to high ranks in Boy Scouting and played sports.

But even more than those qualities, they are seeking young people who want to serve and protect their country.

"The way Jim and I look at things, we need to focus on service to the nation, whether it be in your local community or at the state level or volunteering, and that's the decision Jim and I have made," said Patrick Soos, whose last assignment involved a transportation command in St. Louis. "Instead of serving yourself, we should serve other people. I'm a firm believer in that."

That seems to be a common trait in the Soos family.

Larry Soos, the uncle of Patrick and James, serves as mayor of North Tonawanda. John Soos, an older brother of the lieutenant colonels, is retired from the Army Reserve.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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