AIKEN, S.C. — Angel and Harri Holston finished high school together and decided to enter the U.S. Air Force together. It wasn't until they arrived at basic training in San Antonio that they realized they'd be training together, too.
Angel and Harri are reportedly the first pair of siblings to complete basic training in the same unit, according to their father, Harry Holston of Aiken.
The two sisters graduated from South Aiken High School in June. They left for basic training in San Antonio in late November.
“They weren't expecting it, but they shipped them out both at the same time,” Harry said. “They were going to work it out, but they knew they weren't gonna be together. Immediately after they got there, they found out they both got placed in the same flight.”
Harry Holston, a former Marine, remembered his daughters coming to him and saying they wanted to go in the military, but not the Marines.
“I told them I preferred them to go for the Air Force because I knew the Air Force held education to the highest esteem,” he said.
Angel, 19, participated in ROTC while at South Aiken and also played flute and ran track. Harri, 18, played the violin and basketball. She graduated a year early and decided to enter the military not long after her sister.
Harry said the two girls were active singers in numerous area churches growing up and were known as “the singing sisters.” They also volunteered with Aiken Public Safety's Police Athletic League.
“It was kind of shocking,” Angel said of getting placed in a unit of about 40 people with her sister. “Everybody kept telling us they're gonna separate us as soon as we got there.”
Angel said the most difficult part of training was adapting to new situations, but having a family member close by helped.
“We're pretty close,” she said. “During the whole experience, we used each other to help each other get engaged and learn new things. If one of us needed help, we'd help the other.”
Harri said she wasn't always able to stick up for her older sister.
“I'm more of the 'say it like it is' type, and she's quiet,” she said. “When people yell at her, I can't say anything, and that's the hardest thing, but I learned to take it as, 'They're not trying to hurt her feelings. They're trying to help her.'”
The sisters graduated from basic training in January and are now completing technical training in Virginia, at the end of which they will return to Aiken for a short period of time. Angel wants to continue on to be an Air Force chaplain.
“My whole life, I grew up in the church,” she said. “I feel like I fit well with being a chaplain because I'm not one of those ones that are demanding and strict. I like to help people out and talk with them.”
Harri will likely return to San Antonio to serve as a drill instructor.
“I liked marching and calling cadence,” she said, adding that the Air Force has taught her about being accountable for her actions and a leader. “Coming from Aiken, I wasn't a leader person.”
Harry said he is “ecstatic” about his daughters making it through training and selecting their paths.
“Angel said, 'I want to be a chaplain. I'd rather run the church while (Harri) runs the troops,” he recalled. “So far, the two sisters have been together since they graduated. They're saying, 'We probably want to get separated because we've been together all our lives.'”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.