JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Of the more than 26,600 regular Air Force enlistments in fiscal 2021, statistically speaking, two were extraordinary. Identical twin brothers were recruited by their brother and they attended Basic Military Training together at the same time, in the same unit with both excelling as individuals while on their journey to become Airmen.
“According to public sources, the instances of identical twins in the U.S. is four in every thousand,” said Eric Carlson, a marketing research analyst with Air Force Recruiting Service at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. In an era of reduced propensity to join the military, the uncommonness of Calvin and Cameron Smith’s journey begins there.
Before joining the Air Force, in their hometown of La Grande, Oregon, with a population of about 14,000 people, the twins were active in clubs and sports during their high school career. Family members said that they enjoyed time outdoors and helping their great uncle, an Air Force retiree and Vietnam War veteran who lives in Monroe, Washington, as well as their father with projects such as building construction and land conservation.
After graduation, the two opted to stay close to home. “They both lived on campus while studying to become history teachers at Eastern Oregon University, here,” said Andrea Pelascini, the twins’ mother and a La Grande businesswoman. She said that the transition to college life was working but when COVID-19 hampered the social aspect of campus life, both started looking at other career options.
“Cameron reached out to the National Guard recruiter and researched a few other branches but in the end he decided the Air Force was the best fit,” Pelascini said.
So Cameron turned to another sibling to get advice on joining the Air Force. The twin’s older brother had recently become an Air Force recruiter. The only trouble was that he was on the other side of the continent.
“Cameron started asking me some questions about my time in the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Smith, an enlisted accessions recruiter with the 313th Recruiting Squadron in New Hartford, New York. Zachary is eight years older than the twins but he said their great uncle had inspired him to join the Air Force and serve in its security forces. “I wanted to be a cop and the Air Force gave me security forces which I love to this day.”
Cameron decided to visit Zachary in New York. Calvin wasn’t as interested but he finally decided to tag along on the 2,700-mile trip from Oregon. Once they reached New York their big brother and Air Force recruiter elected to be patient with his Air Force-applicant siblings. “I didn't want to pressure my brothers to join, especially if they didn’t like it in the end,” Zachary said.
The twins considered what their brother told them and both warmed to the idea of joining the Air Force.
“Calvin decided to see how well he would test and he got a high score. When Calvin got serious about wanting to join, the recruiter side of Zach informed him of all the opportunities,” Pelascini said.
They returned to Oregon and Zachery got the call all recruiters enjoy taking.
“Cameron asked me if I could recruit him. I said that I could but he would have to go through the Military Entrance Processing Station in New York,” Zachary said.
After Cameron made his second roundtrip to New York and completed the enlistment process, his twin brother in Oregon decided he would do the same thing. By August 2021, the twins were back in La Grande and ready for the next leg of their journey.
“They honestly were the two easiest recruits I ever had,” Zachary said. “They both understood what I was telling them and both were perfect at the MEPS. I did meetings via FaceTime up until they shipped to Basic Military Training. They are both very physically fit and very mature for their age.”
The twins left La Grande for BMT at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, on Oct. 10, 2021. “My leadership set them with the same ship date since they are twins and my brothers,” Zachary said.
It was good news for the twins.
“Zach made the recruiting process very smooth,” Cameron said. “It was a real blessing.”
At JBSA-Lackland, the twins were assigned to Flight 010 in the 322nd Training Squadron. Their military training instructors made them be each other’s Wingman, a pairing common in the Air Force that is intended to provide Airmen with a support network. According to their family, it’s a relationship the two have shared since birth.
“Their dad would say that Calvin has always been the front guy while Cameron would be in the back observing,” Pelascini said. “Calvin is the talker while Cameron is the listener. They always have each other’s back. Joining the Air Force and attending BMT together seems like it was meant to be. They always push and challenge each other in a playful but competitive way so I think this experience was positive for them.”
Despite their readymade support network, BMT proved to be a challenge.
“They called one of us every Saturday,” Zachary said. “They were definitely shocked after the first week. I think they were expecting something else and did not realize how challenging BMT could actually be. As the weeks progressed their confidence had grown and they became more comfortable.”
Letters from the twins kept family across the U.S. informed.
“Cameron was the first to write,” Pelascini said. “He wrote to his dad. It was an emotional letter talking about how thankful he was that his dad had taught him life lessons and was not only a father but his friend. He really was embracing the importance of family and the meaning of time. The next few letters were to me and they were information about his daily routines and spoke of the individuals he had met and his positive experiences with his instructors. Calvin wrote to me knowing I would share his letters with everyone. As a mom, I ask a million questions so Calvin made sure to list all the details and write in-depth about the BMT daily experiences. He also spoke of the friendships he was making and how Cameron was.”
The twins graduated from BMT Nov. 24, 2021, at JBSA-Lackland. Their mother, father and recruiter had a family reunion with their new Airmen in Airman’s Arena which was filled by hundreds of others who were also seeing their loved ones for the first time in many weeks. There were hugs and tears aplenty on the eve of Thanksgiving in San Antonio.
Cameron had earned acclaim in training for his physical fitness test score and he was preparing to follow in Zachary’s footsteps to security forces training. Calvin, with new ribbons representing awards and airman rank on his uniform, had graduated in the top 10% of their squadron academically and he was preparing to enter the geospatial intelligence career field.
“It was great to go through BMT together because the beginning is stressful and at night we could talk to each other and provide each other support,” Calvin said.
They didn’t know if they would eventually be stationed together but Calvin said that he expected their requests for future assignments to look alike.
Their recruiter hugged his brothers.
“I feel like a little dad, helping them become the individuals that they are,” Zachary said.
After Thanksgiving and departure to homes in Oregon and New York, or in the twin’s case, technical schools in Texas, family members said that they hoped to have another reunion around Christmastime in La Grande.
“We are so proud of Calvin and Cameron,” Pelascini said. “They are both amazing individuals destined to do great things!”