Sisters' legacy makes Academy history

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Meredith Kirchoff
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Many graduates speak of the lifelong bonds they make with classmates during their four years at the Air Force Academy. For the Robillard family, the shared challenges, failures and triumphs of the Academy experience made a close-knit group of four sisters that much closer.

As twins Alicia and Amanda Robillard graduate today, the Robillard's make history as the first family to graduate four sisters from the Academy.

"As anyone who attended the Academy can attest to, there is just that language and shared experience that all grads have in common, and being able to share that with all my sisters has really kept our bond strong," said Lauren Robillard, a Class of 2007 graduate and the eldest sister of the family. "I would even venture to say that by having all attended the Academy, we are closer than we otherwise would have been."

When Nicole, Class of 2009, and Alicia and Amanda decided to attend the Academy, the sisters said they didn't consider it a decision to simply following their older sister's lead. The Bristol, Conn., natives also said it wasn't something they were pressured into for tradition's sake.

"While they (my sisters) and my parents were sure to not make Amanda and I feel forced in any way, the fact that they were here opened us up to the opportunities and  experiences that I would have not been aware of," Alicia said. "In a sense, you could say it is like choosing the same college as your best friend, especially for Amanda and me."

"I went to college, and it just turned out that we all decided to go to the same college," added Lauren, who is now a helicopter pilot stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

The younger three sisters agreed that entering the Academy with an older sister who was a current cadet had its advantages in addition to being a familiar face from home. Most notable on the list was almost unlimited access to a car during the first two years when cadets are not allowed to have their own vehicles.

"I didn't have to show up to a place where I didn't know anyone like many of my classmates," Amanda said. "I felt, and still feel today, like the luckiest girl, not only to have had an older sister at the Academy to show me the ropes but also to have a twin sister who was going through the same things I was. Knowing Alicia was experiencing those things through Basic (Cadet Training) and four-degree year was helpful and a constant motivation for me to do well."

One thing the older two were adamant about was allowing each sister to experience the Academy in her own way. Nicole, now an airfield operations officer at Luke AFB, Ariz., explained that Lauren gave her only two tips prior to inprocessing at the Academy -- don't freak out the first morning of BCT when you get your first wake-up call by the BCT cadre, and don't hyperventilate when you low crawl through the tunnels of the assault course and cadre push sand in your face, just keep pushing it out.

"She wanted me to experience it on my own, which I came to appreciate, and a couple (of) years down the road, when the twins decided to come, I did the same thing to them and told them the same two things Lauren told me," she said.

The twins agreed that their older sisters not only didn't spoil the experience for them, they challenged them to make the most of their time at the Academy.

"I can guarantee it pushed me a great deal harder through Basic when I knew my older sister was a cadre, and freshmen year because I wanted my sisters to hear that I was doing well so they could be proud of me," said Alicia, who will attend pilot training at  Columbus AFB, Miss., with her twin sister following graduation. "They always did a great job of pushing us to do the best and not doubt what we are capable of."

Through that challenge, the Robillards distinguished themselves by the leadership role each sister attained in the Cadet Wing. Three of the four sisters served as cadet squadron commanders, the highest-ranking cadet and leader of their approximately 110-person squadron, while Amanda served as Cadet Group 4 commander, leading 10 cadet squadrons and a 20-person staff.

Although not from a military background, all the graduates attributed their family's success to their parents, Robert and Lenore Robillard, whom they describe as avid military supporters.

"I owe everything I am and that I have accomplished to my family," Amanda explained. "From the way I was raised by my parents to having the opportunity to watch my sisters as I grew up, teach me what hard work will get you. My mom and dad have loved and supported me day in and day out and are always proud as long as they see me happy and working hard."

All the love, support and advice aside, the best perk of having all your sisters go the Academy?

"It makes conversations way easier when you don't have to define acronyms!" Lauren said. "Our poor parents have been struggling to keep up with that power curve."