COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Kiersten and Kerri Schmidt were desperate to see each other.
It was the summer of 2011, and they had just reported for six weeks of basic training at the Air Force Academy.
Until that point, only summer camp had separated the twins from Verona, Ky., for an extended period.
The academy would change that.
Sibling cadets are assigned to separate squadrons, and members of other squadrons are forbidden from visiting each other during basic training.
Never before had the sisters been so close yet so far from each other.
For the Schmidts, it was hell.
So the teenagers found a loophole that provided them a little piece of heaven: church.
“I think we both cried,” Kiersten said of her first reunion with Kerri at a Cadet Chapel service. “It was weird seeing her in uniform. I’d been hoping that she was making it through better than I was.”
“We looked like crap,” Kerri said with a smile.
Thanks to the academy, separation anxiety is no longer an issue for the sisters, born minutes apart and now 20-year-old sophomores.
They participated in the same sports as children and graduated high school together at the top of their class.
When the two entered the academy, little differentiated the sisters with the curly blond hair aside from their height — Kiersten is 5 inches taller — and ear lobes — Kerri’s are unattached.
Kiersten had to resubmit her academy application when it was mistaken for a duplicate of Kerri’s and shredded.
Different squadrons, jobs and majors meant the young women spent the majority of their freshman year apart.
“The one good thing was we figured out who we were as individuals,” Kerri said. “We made our own friends.”
They also figured out how to make decisions for themselves.
“When we were always together, we’d look to each other and say, ‘I’m going to do this. Is that okay?’ ” Kiersten said.
“Now it’s like, ‘I’m going to do this. I guess that is okay.’ ”
As sophomores, cadets earn the privilege of visiting same-gender members of other squadrons in their rooms.
That means more time together for the sisters, who joined show choir freshman year as an excuse to spend more time with each other.
“We’re best friends,” Kiersten said. “I can’t imagine being closer to anyone.”
“It’s always been that way,” Kerri said. “It’s solid.”
Though their dependency on each other has lessened, their bond hasn’t.
Kiersten and Kerri realize that, at some point, their careers will likely land them at different duty stations.
But they hope to attend pilot school together after graduation — just like their father and uncle, also twins — did after graduating the academy in 1979.
Eventually, they figure they’ll start families of their own.
“Our parents said we can’t date until we’re 35 and until we’re married,” Kerri said with a laugh.
“If we both retire as old cat ladies, I can see us moving in together,” Kiersten said.