December 11, 2002, 10:56 EST

Teamwork makes for success

By Spec. Stephanie Willer

Rocky Mount, Va -- Teamwork - the military believes in it, Corporate America swears by it, and relationships are built on it. With teamwork comes success. Unique ideas are derived from all corners and one person's shared success means success for all.

Four friends, who live in Franklin County, a small community tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, apply teamwork to their daily lives. They represent every aspect of the word and have become team players in our military.

Pfc. Wesley T.Helms, Pfc. David N. Setliff, Pfc. William "Billy" Riddle and Pfc. Lindsey Perdue, with Det. I 173rd Transportation Co., located in Rocky Mount, Va., returned this past summer from basic training and are currently attending college.

Thanks to the efforts made by their local recruiter, Staff Sgt. Stephen Gill, and a little luck on their side, the four young men were able to share their first military experience together. "It 's not very common for four friends to end up in the same company, let alone in the same platoon during Basic Training and AIT," said Helms.

Sharing experiences together is not something new for these friends. During their sophomore year of high school, the four young men cultivated a friendship during the football season when they played ball for the "Eagles" at Franklin County High School. Their friendship only strengthened over the next two years.

After graduating from high school they went their separate ways for the summer, which was usually the case; it was their time for independence. However, Setliff and Riddle were discussing future plans for college when they decided to take a trip to Emory and Henry College, a private university located in Emory, Va.

Since the school was well known for its athletic and teaching programs, both decided to apply and submit their applications. Their good friends Purdue and Helms had also decided to apply to E&H. Little did they know that once again in the fall their paths would meet.
All were accepted into the college and all made the E&H football team. They began training and studying together. The first year went well but by the end of their spring semester, the young men came to the realization that trying to keep-up with work, study, and football would be too difficult to maintain and would effect their grades.

Since E&H is a private school ROTC was not an option. The tuition at E&H packs a hefty punch of approximately $20,000 per year, which is a huge commitment for anyone, let alone someone just out of high school. To make things worse, they had sacrificed receiving sports scholarships to attend E&H. Since E&H carries a Division III athletic ranking, there are no athletic scholarships available. The need for financial assistance became very apparent. They began to discuss a strategy.

Riddle explained that on the last day of his freshman year, as he was leaving the building, he noticed an army brochure. Riddle said, "I picked it up and took it home with me." Riddle said it was a very simple decision, "We were poor and college was expensive. We had to find a way. It would require us to take a semester off for Basic Training and AIT, but in the end we would have financial assistance." He then went to Setliff with his idea and both agreed they would join.

Helms had toyed with the idea of joining the military, since he had family members who had been in other branches of the military, but he still had not made a decision. However,
It didn't take long for him to make the commitment, too. Perdue was a little more reluctant. When they went to the recruiter's office to fill out their final paperwork, Purdue decided to join them and act as moral support. By the end of the meeting however, he found himself signing on the dotted line. "I couldn’t let them leave with out me," said Perdue.

All of the men had opted to do split training so not to conflict with school and their sophomore football season. They continued to drill with their unit until January of this year when they left for Basic Training, which was at Ft. Jackson in S.C. They also went on to attend a six-week AIT course at Ft. Bliss in Texas.

By summer, they were back home enjoying a few months off before school started.
All commented that they had shared a renewed sense of direction for their futures.
Helms, who is working on a degree in History, spoke of the advantages of his career in the military and said, "it opens so many doors, plus it is a positive reinforcement that you are someone who can handle tasks and take charge when necessary. I' m a take charge kind of person, anyway." Helms also mentioned that he is now thinking about Drill Sergeant School and eventually going on to Officer Candidate School.

Setliff, who is working on a degree in Psychology, said that he wants to see how things go first before he makes a decision on his military career path, but OCS is a possibility.

Riddle, whose major is in Physical Education, plans on giving back to the community. After he completes his degree he would like to return to Franklin County High School and work as a Physical Education teacher. Riddle explained, "When we joined the military it was for financial reasons, but now it has become more."

Purdue, who is majoring in Mathematics, also plans on going to OCS. " I want to be no less than a Full-Bird-Colonel by the end of my career." When asked what his formula was for the added equation of being in the military, he explained, "Life is like a foundation. If your have a small foundation, your house will be small and limited. With a huge foundation, your possibilities are infinite." He continued, "the military adds to my foundation."

While all of the young men are achieving a higher education, are striving to be responsible adults, they're aspiring to be the best soldiers they can be. The knowledge of teamwork that they share will enable them to reach their goals for success in the future.

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