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W.Va. triplets join Air National Guard

May 19, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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WV triplets

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Triplets Aaron, Ben and Chris Harding don't have the sibling rivalry that divides some families.

They share the same taste in clothing, music and sports and all work at Roger's County Market in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Now the 19-year-olds have made another move together by joining the West Virginia Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing.

This is believed to be the first set of triplets to enlist in the airlift wing's 43-year history.

"As far as we know, we believe this is the first for the whole Air National Guard nationwide," said Master Sgt. David Remsberg, who recruited the Hardings. "It's definitely a first for the state of West Virginia."

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The trio graduated from Berkeley Springs High School in 1997 and just finished their first year at Shepherd College.

Like many college students, they paid for their first year with student loans. A friend of Aaron's told him about the Air National Guard and the 100 percent tuition plan.

"We really liked the idea of paid tuition," Ben said.

Aaron then went to Remsberg with questions.

"He went and talked to his brothers and they just fell into line, one, two, three," Remsberg said. "What was even more amazing about it is they all scored exceptionally high on the entrance exam."

Chris and Aaron leave July 8 for basic training. Ben and a friend leave May 27.

"It's better if you have someone to go with. It makes it easier on you," Ben said.

All three will study communications and navigational systems during technical training.

The decision to enlist at the same time and choose the same field of study will likely turn some heads and create identity mix-ups. But it's nothing they haven't dealt with before.

The Hardings said strangers often approach them, wanting to know if they are triplets. Even at the Air National Guard, people are fussing, they said.

"When we went down to enlist, everyone knew about us even before we went for the physical," Aaron said.

The Hardings will report for six weeks of basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After that comes 30 weeks of technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Keesler, Miss.

The recruits are required to serve eight years part time in the Air National Guard to repay their tuition. The time they spend in college counts toward the completion of their service.

Next week, the brothers are going canoeing before Ben reports to basic training. It will be the last time the three of them will be home at the same time for nearly a year.

"It's something we wanted to do together," Ben said.

Chris and Aaron have a little more time to enjoy the summer.

"We'll probably just work for a little while, then get some other stuff in," Chris said.

When they return to Berkeley County, they will serve part-time and enroll in college.

The Air National Guard will pay for their three remaining years of school and reimburse them for the first year they paid for with student loans.

"They get the best of both worlds," Remsberg said.

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