In Lock Step: Twin sisters find resilience through running

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Alvarado

Airmen are encouraged to seek a support system during their time in service, reinforcing their resolve to carry out the mission effectively, sharpening their skills and lending a listening ear during challenging times. For one Airman at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, that support system was in place within seconds of being born.

“It makes it a little bit easier because I can talk to her, and she knows what I’m talking about,” said Senior Airman Rebecca Mason, United States Strategic Command J52 targeting analyst.

Rebecca, who has travelled from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska to compete in a Half-Marathon, sits across from her twin sister, Senior Airman Ashley Mason, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations client systems technician for an interview about their service. Both are honored to wear the U.S. Air Force uniform and continue on a parallel track of success during their enlistment.

“It’s the same with testing below the zone for promotion, testing for the rank of staff sergeant and preparing for Airman Leadership School, said Ashley. “I was able to talk about my experience and help her understand what to expect.”

Keeping in step with each other has led to a pending promotion to staff sergeant for both Mason sisters. This family care can be traced back to middle school, where they competed in track and field and maintained a passion for building endurance and speed.

“We keep each other accountable with our races,” said Rebecca. “Whatever has helped me, I share with her. And she shares what helps her as well.”

The friendly competition between the two provided an advantage during the rest of their high school career. While others may not have understood their dedication, they attribute it to friendly rivalry.

“It was always a competition between us,” said Ashley. “Some of our teammates would give us a hard time, saying we were trying too hard. I replied, ‘Nah, I’m just trying to beat my sister.’”

Their training has translated over to military service. They relate the principles of pushing through barriers in their respective career fields to the rigors of running competitively.

Determination is the foundation of success, according to Rebecca.

“If I have a briefing that doesn’t go well, I can push past that failure and learn from it,” Rebecca said. “That’s how running is. You have to ask, ‘What can you improve? What did you do wrong?’ to perform better in the next race.”

A byproduct of this regimen also lends itself to proper self-care. Ashley finds a meditative element in her run sessions.

“Running helps,” said Ashley. “I think about how my day went, purge all my emotions, and then start the next day off fresh.”

Their accountability toward each other bears similarities to the leadership style they want to emulate as non-commissioned officers. They hope to maintain a balance between being hands-off and an empowering presence.

“I want to be an NCO who’s involved but not too involved,” said Rebecca. “I want them to learn from their mistakes, without micromanagement, but also feel comfortable enough to come to me.”

Her twin shared a similar sentiment.

“I want to be their friend when they need a friend,” said Ashley. “Also, I want to be that supervisor who can put their foot down and ensure I’m leading my Airmen in the right direction without being too extreme.”

Though Rebecca is stationed at Offutt AFB, their deep bond has continued. Their inspiration partly stems from their grandfather’s service in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

“He passed away when we were young, but we always wanted to serve,” said Rebecca. “We just happened to join the Air Force.”

They explained how their grandfather was reserved about his enlistment and speculated this could be due to the challenges he endured. Nonetheless, this pushed them to answer their calling in their respective fields.

“We always wanted to make him proud,” said Ashley. “We wanted to make our parents proud, serve our country and do something bigger than ourselves.”