When Everett French and Thomas Langhorn Reese were growing up in the Spring Valley section of Northwest, people often saw the two brothers together. Born six minutes apart on Sept. 12, 1960, the identical twins learned at an early age to compete in the world by protecting each other.

That same family spirit has carried them a long way. On May 26 both will be graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Only about 12 percent of those who apply to the academy are accepted, and academy officials say the chances for twins both being appointed are almost nil.

The Reese family has a long naval tradition. Loren Fitzhugh Reese, the twins' 24-year-old brother, is a 1979 graduate of the academy and a lieutenant aboard the USS McCandless. Their father, Robert B. Reese, was a Navy lieutenant commander during World War II. A grandfather, Loren H. Fryer, was in the Naval Academy's class of 1926 and served in the Marine Corps Reserves. There was even a great-great uncle, Ely Fryer, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor and was a Marine Corps brigadier general.

Nominated to the academy by D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, the Reese twins sent in their applications separately so as not to hurt each other's chances of being accepted.

Lang Reese says he and French applied to the academy because they wanted to be "pushed into a challenging situation" where the challenge was physical and emotional as well as academic.

Their mother, Constance Fryer Reese, says the twins always have been in situations where they have worked together to compete against others.

In their kindergarten class at Sidwell Friends School, when the children were told to form a line to go outside, she recalls, one of the twins "ran to the front of the line and the other got both of their coats, so they wound up being first and second in line."

She attributes the closeness between the brothers to the fact that she and their father "never let them on the playing field together" so they wouldn't compete with each other.

While Lang played high school baseball at St. Albans School for Boys, French was the school's "all-metropolitan" player in soccer.

But French says playing varsity soccer his first year at the academy took its toll academically, and at Lang's recommendation, he decided to stop playing and concentrate more on his studies.

French has maintained a 3.18 grade average that places him near the top 200 in his class of 1,036 seniors. Lang's 3.5 average places him 96th in the class, and means he probably will graduate "with distinction," assuming his grades hold up when final examination results are posted this week.

Lang says high school at St. Albans was probably the best preparation for the twins' later experiences at the academy. At St. Albans "we learned to budget our time. Both schools have small classes where the teachers are available if you need to speak to them."

After graduation the twins will probably go their separate ways--for a while, at least. Lang has been accepted as a nuclear surface-ship line officer and will be on temporary duty at the academy until October, when he begins a regular assignment.

French is going into the Marine Corps, and will begin another six months of training at the Marine Basic School in Quantico, Va., in September after working through the summer at Annapolis. He says he would like to become a military lawyer, and would prefer law school at Georgetown because he's "stuck" on the D.C. area.

French has other plans, too. Last Christmas he and Barbara Zimmerman, a graduate of Georgetown Visitation School studying nursing at the University of Delaware, decided to get married after his graduation from the academy.