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I’ll have what she’s having

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jessica Haynie
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – One of the challenges Airmen can expect to face when entering the World’s greatest Air Force is the tremendous possibility of being separated from your family. At times, the separation takes place across state lines or country borders.

The same cannot be said for two sisters from a military family with the same Air Force Specialty Code. Although years apart, they are both stationed at Columbus Air Force Base.

It is common for younger siblings to look up to their older brothers and sisters for guidance, so it was no surprise when U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Laura O’Brien, 14th Flying Training Wing air traffic controller, shared with her family the details of her work, her sister Allison became equally intrigued.

After months of trying to decide the best route after high school Laura decided she would enlist after graduation in 2017. Her family motivated her choices: both parents are Air Force reservists, and her uncle worked for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He told her of the love he had for the job.

“I enlisted, went through the training, and my first duty station was here at Columbus Air Force Base,” said Laura. “It was nice being able to leave my family and learn some much needed independence, but I was also close enough to home.”

Allison saw and heard her sisters experience and decided would also like to enlist and try air traffic control.

“I thought my sister’s job was really interesting, so I decided to enlist after graduating in 2020,” said Allison. “I think she was a little irritated at the idea of me doing the same job.”

After settling with the fact that they had the same job, another surprise came.

“She called me first, not even our parents,” said Laura. “She was in tears because her first assignment would be here at Columbus and she did not want to come. The positive side of things is that we get to see each other when we want to.”

Laura admitted it was frustrating at first because naturally siblings are always being compared. How would they set themselves apart if they were exactly the same?

When Allison first got to CAFB she was pulled to join the base’s Honor Guard and that is where she has been since arriving. She will join her sister in the tower soon to begin training.

“It will be nice when I finally get to train in the tower,” said Allison. “Having my sister there to learn with me, I think will have its advantages.”

Times have been difficult since COVID-19 arrived early last year. Restricting travel for Airmen to ensure the safety of the base stays a priority so that the mission can continue.

“It is nice but in the beginning I was worried she would not get the same sense of independence that I was able to experience,” said Laura. “I think she is doing well though. Although we do have the luxury of seeing each other, she is still very independent.”

As the sisters grew older, they grew closer. Being able to experience the same thing together and have common ground will be a unique experience, and one that not many people get to experience in a military career.