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Not their first Rodeo: Daughters of commander serve country with support

Aleeyah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, practices with her horse, Reekay, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Aleeyah competes in Colorado Pro Rodeo Association events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Aleeyah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, practices with her horse, Reekay, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Aleeyah competes in Colorado Pro Rodeo Association events. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Aleeyah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, rounds the second barrel at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Aleeyah aspires to compete in the National Finals Rodeo someday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Aleeyah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, rounds the second barrel at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Aleeyah aspires to compete in the National Finals Rodeo someday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, wraps the ankle of her horse, Nacho, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah began horse riding at age four. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, wraps the ankle of her horse, Nacho, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah began horse riding at age four. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, shows affection to her horse, Nacho, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah, age nine, was gifted Nacho on her eighth birthday by her older sister, Aleeyah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, shows affection to her horse, Nacho, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah, age nine, was gifted Nacho on her eighth birthday by her older sister, Aleeyah. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, sprints the last stretch of her run at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah inherited her love of horses from her parents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Savannah, daughter of Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, sprints the last stretch of her run at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Savannah inherited her love of horses from her parents. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, holds hands with her daughter, Savannah, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Roberts supports her daughters’ dreams of competing in professional rodeo events just as they support her and her military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

LOVELAND, Colo. - Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, holds hands with her daughter, Savannah, at a barrel racing event in Loveland, Colo., April 15, 2017. Roberts supports her daughters’ dreams of competing in professional rodeo events just as they support her and her military career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Within the U.S., a special part of the population is made up of military children. Though young, brave sons and daughters from all walks of life stand with unwavering support of their military parents. To honor their contributions and sacrifices on behalf of the country, every April is designated the Month of the Military Child.

Faced with the uncertainty of their parent’s safety, goodbyes to friends and challenged by starting anew with schools, sports teams and friendships; growing up with a parent in the military means sacrifice.

Lt. Col. Nicole Roberts, 21st Security Forces Squadron commander, with her daughters, Aleeyah and Savannah, know all too well the meaning of sacrifice. They have fought to maintain consistency in the girls’ world of professional barrel racing all while balancing her role as an Airman.

Barrel racing is a rodeo event where Roberts’ daughters and their horses attempt to complete a cloverleaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. The premise is simple, however, the execution is where skill shines through, said Roberts.

Time in the saddle and time with the horse determines how far you go in the sport. By the time their fourth birthdays came around, the Roberts girls were already saddled in to this lifestyle and started to grow roots in the rodeo.

Having a supportive rodeo community is a key factor in the development of any rider. If you have to relocate and there isn’t that community around, there is no sport, said Roberts.

“The rodeo family is very tight knit,” she said. “When you have to move your family around there isn’t always a rodeo community there, and if there is, you have to find it and weave yourself back into it. You have to prove yourself to new teams and new divisions, and once you do that -- it might be at a point where you may have to move and do it all over again. It can be very hard.”

According to the Department of Defense Education Activity, the average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career. That's an average of three times more frequently than nonmilitary families. Roberts said this is only one of the challenges her family faces with in regards to her military service.

Being the commander of a squadron with more than 200 Airmen, Roberts’ work engulfs much of her time and takes her many places. That work and time away from home isn’t just felt by Roberts, but is also extended to her husband and daughters.

“I don’t like the fact that she has to work really late because we miss her,” said Savannah, age nine. “I miss her so much.”

Aleeyah, age 15, echoes the sentiments of her younger sister but smiles knowing there is more to the story.

“I feel like all the defenders my mom has are my big brothers and big sisters,” she said. “They are a part of our family, so when my mom isn’t home I feel good knowing that she is with family who loves her and wants to protect her.”

At the end of the day when Roberts can come home and relax, she makes sure to take a minute to give thanks for her daughters’ support.
“I am so proud of my daughters,” said Roberts. “They have had to adapt and overcome a lot of things. At the end of the day they make me a better leader because I have a deeper appreciation for family. They support me 150 percent, and I thank God for them every day.”

Just as thankful as Roberts is for the support her daughters provide, the feelings are mutual.

“I don’t even know how to explain how proud I am of my mom,” said Aleeyah, with Savannah nodding behind her. “I can’t put into words what I feel when I see my mom go in to work every day. I can’t complain about having to sacrifice things because I know what my mom has done for us and what she has had to sacrifice so we can do what we love.”

When her mother raised her right hand and swore an oath of service to the country, Roberts’ daughters, without any other option, swore into the service as military children. Given the opportunity, Aleeyah said she and her sister wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“Being in the military does something to you as a kid. And it’s a good thing. You can spot another military kid just by talking to them. I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot from being a military kid. I’ve learned to be grateful for everything we have, and I like being able to tell all my friends that my mom fights bad guys! Not all kids can say that!”

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