Sisters Cross Afghanistan Skies

Air Force Capt. Kelly Smith, 31, practically grew up in a Cessna, hopping around with her father, a commercial pilot.

With a grandfather who was a lieutenant colonel in the Army Air Corps during World War II and a grandmother and mother who were flight attendants, a love of the sky came naturally to the Smiths.

"It's absolutely ingrained in the blood," Kelly said. "Like there's hydraulic fluid in there or something."

Sky-high flying continued with the third-generation trio of Smith sisters: Kelly, Amber and Lacey, who are all pilots in the armed forces and flying in Afghanistan, a war zone more dangerous than Iraq.

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Kelly flies a C-130 Hercules plane with the 146th Airlift Wing in California, now dropping supplies to troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

"It looks beautiful when it takes off and you bank it up 60 degrees," Kelly said. "It's almost like looking at your child or something when you watch it take off. You're so proud of it."

In July, she was deployed to Afghanistan, where her younger sister, Amber, 26, had already been serving since 2007.

"This is so weird that we're hanging out together in Afghanistan," Kelly said.

Amber is a chief warrant officer in Afghanistan, manning an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, which is used for scout attacks.

"Who wouldn't want to do what I'm doing? It's a great job," Amber said. "I get paid for what I do -- flying around the skies. I fly a great helicopter."

Though they were both stationed in Afghanistan, Amber and Kelly were on separate missions, each with their own risks.

"She has the most dangerous mission, I think, out of the three of us," Kelly said about Amber's post.

Amber just left Afghanistan on Thursday and returned home to White Salmon, Wash. on Friday, to see the rest of the Smith family. Her unit in Afghanistan will be replaced by her youngest sister Lacey's. Amber returns to her reconaissance mission in Afghanistan in eighteen days.

Lacey, 25, is a chief warrant officer and pilots a Black Hawk helicopter.

She recalls the first time her big sister put her in control of a plane, when she was just a teenager.

"[Kelly] said take the controls, and I said, 'No, it's too windy,'" Lacey recalled. "And of course you know the big sister says all. And it was, 'Do it or no one's going to be on the controls.'"

Lacey took control.

All coincidentally stationed in Afghanistan, each sister understands what the others are going through.

"Obviously I worry about them and I'm realistic about it," Amber said. "I am out there, too. I know exactly what they're doing and what they risk."

But, they feel honored to share their military service with one another.

"As far as I know, we are probably the only ones," Kelly said. "But, I hope there are plenty of other girls out there that are learning to fly or want to fly and are able to get into the military. We're having a great time. We love it."

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