Kayla and Ashley Naber, 21, both serve in the United States Air Force Reserve. The Illinois sisters are also both nursing majors, and that’s not where the similarities end; genetically, Kayla and Ashley are exactly the same.
Twins are two offspring made by the same pregnancy. Even more rare are identical twins, who come from the same zygote, or egg. The egg then splits in half, and each twin develops into a fully-formed human being.
Some may wonder: what is it like growing up with an identical version of yourself?
The Bond Between Twins
“We’re best friends,” Kayla expressed, and the smile could be heard in her voice. “We literally do everything together. The only thing we didn’t like [growing up] is people calling us the wrong name, and never knowing which one was which. I’m like, ‘We don’t even look alike!’”
(Spoiler: they do look quite alike!)
Being a twin is sharing a unique bond that almost no one else can understand. Sometimes this bond stretches further, and can even go beyond medical facts and research.
“We got in a car accident my junior year of high school, and Ashley was hurt really bad. I wasn’t injured, but I was aching in pain, and felt weak and tired. Some people say that [shared pain in twins] is not a thing, but it definitely is for me,” Kayla explained.
She added: “Nobody gets it except us. When she’s down, I can just tell. I can feel when something is wrong.”
Nursing School & Enlistment
For Kayla and Ashley, their bond also led them down very similar life paths. When they graduated high school, they both went to Northern Illinois University to study nursing. Kayla wants to get her bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN), with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP).
“I’ve always wanted to do nursing school, but it was super expensive and I couldn’t afford it,” Kayla said. “One of my mom’s best friends has been in the Air Force 20-plus years, and she told me that it would give me the chance to pay for my school.”
In addition to the education benefits, the Naber sisters were equally interested in the experience of the Air Force. They had always respected service members, and looked at the military as an opportunity to start something new.
“We enlisted at the same time. We’d always wanted to do it, and having school paid for was like the cherry on top.”
As it turns out, the twins would go through basic training together, too. Enlisting in the Reserve is similar to active duty in that everyone must endure the same basic training. Essentially, you are broken down from the civilian you were and transformed into the service member you are.
“We got so lucky [going to basic together],” Kayla said. “I mean, we got picked on and pointed out all the time, because we were twins so we stood out. Everyone said: when you go make sure you don’t stand out. But when you’re a twin that’s kind of hard.”
I asked her to elaborate.
“Obviously, I am my own individual person, and so is Ashley, but [the drill instructors] would treat us like we were one person. My last name is Naber, so they would always call us ‘Nabers’, and if one person had to do something they would just yank us both over.”
They were also constantly assigned to the most humiliating and undesirable tasks.
“At the end I think it made me a stronger person. I would always get so upset when people would call me out or yell at me, but now someone could come up and scream in my face and it wouldn’t even faze me.”
In the overwhelming environment of basic training, it can be easy to think ‘I can’t do this.’ But, having completed it, Kayla feels a huge sense of accomplishment.
“I realized it was making me a better person. More responsible, and more of a leader. I got stronger, with more confidence and discipline. There are so many benefits to joining the military.”
Now, almost two years later, the Nabers are still going strong in the Air Force Reserve. One weekend a month they experience life in the Air Force, and the rest of the time they focus on their civilian careers.
Kayla works in the customer service sect of material management, which is suited to her because she’s so talkative. Ashley works in services and can be assigned anywhere from the gym, to the kitchen, and even mortuary affairs. But their real passions lie in nursing.
“The medical field excites me. I’ve always been a giver; making sure everybody else is happy and taking care of them. And,” Kayla added, laughing, “My favorite show is Grey’s Anatomy.”
On top of her job in the Air Force and the demanding workload of college, Kayla works as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) during the week. Finding time to spend with her sister, though, is still top priority.
“The longest we’ve been apart is for tech school. She was sent to Virginia and I stayed in San Antonio, Texas for two and a half more months. That was the hardest thing ever… saying goodbye.”
The Best of Both Worlds
In spite of their (multitude of) similarities, the Nabers do have their differences. They perform separate duties in the Air Force, and are going into different nursing specialties.
“And Ashley’s more shy,” noted Kayla. “We’re still both wild and obnoxious; we talk a bunch. But I feel like she’s still a little bit more shy than I am.”
More than anything, they’ve each created lives that they enjoy, and the Air Force Reserve has been a tool to help get them there. Kayla encourages students or people who are pursuing civilian careers to join the Reserves; she describes it as getting “the best of both worlds.” For her personally, serving in the Air Force with her sister has made their relationship even better.
“We’ve always been close in general, and then doing this together is like a different kind of close. It’s just another special bond we have together.”
For more information on the Air Force Reserve, visit: https://afreserve.com/