October 26, 2007
Mother, daughter join the Virginia National Guard
Wanda Seate (right) stood behind her daughter, Ashley Elliott, in formation with other recruits at Fort Pickett Wednesday. (Photo by Don Long, Courtesy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Two head for basic training fit and ready, fighting to succeed
By Peter Bacque
Courtesy of Richmond Times-Dispatch
A South Boston mother and daughter have joined the Virginia Army National Guard together -- recruited by their brother and uncle.
Wanda Seate, 40, and her daughter, Ashley Elliott, 21, will leave for Army basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., tomorrow (Oct. 25).
Their recruiter was Staff Sgt. Jonathan Rhew, Wanda's brother and Ashley's uncle.
Last spring, Rhew was explaining to Elliott how the Guard could help her realize her dream of going to college.
When Seate heard his pitch, "I told Jon, if I was young enough, I'd go in right away," Seate recalled yesterday.
"You know, they just raised the age limit to 42," Rhew told his sister.
"Where's the paper?" Seate told him. "I'm going."
And Elliott went, too.
"It's a privilege for me to be here to serve my country," Seate said. "It's always something I've wanted to do."
The two were interviewed from Fort Pickett, where they and other enlistees were in a special Guard program to prepare them for basic training.
"We know how to march, shoot an M-16, take it apart and put it back together," Seate said, "so this program's really good."
"I've got more muscle in my arms from doing pushups than when I came here," Elliott said.
And, she said, "I love shooting M-16s."
Rhew isn't worried about his older sister and his niece standing up to the hardships of Army service. "They'll do fine," he said. "They're strong. . . . They'll be standouts."
Rhew also said he didn't push them into enlisting: "They both inspired each other to do it."
Seate is a registered nurse, and Elliott has been working as a waitress. Both intend to use their military benefits to further their educations.
"It's a great opportunity to better myself," Elliott said yesterday.
Staff Sgt. Clyde Johnson at Fort Pickett said that as a drill sergeant he had never seen a mother and daughter enlisting in the Army together.
After boot camp, the mother and daughter team will train as generator mechanics. When they return to Virginia, the new soldiers will serve with the Guard's 3647th Maintenance Company in Blackstone.
Neither professes to be mechanical, but both said they're looking forward to learning a new skill.
"I chose [generator repair] for a challenge," Seate said. "I'm not normally mechanically inclined."
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, joining the National Guard is no longer a quiet way to earn extra money.
More than 1,700 of Virginia Army Guard soldiers are serving in Iraq now, and almost 500 are serving on peacekeeping duties in Kosovo. Guard soldiers can anticipate being deployed at least once during a normal six-year enlistment, officials say.
"I don't necessarily want to be deployed," Seate said, "but I'm ready to go if I have to."
Six state Guard soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There's more a chance of being shot at going down the road or leaving a club," said Elliott. "Nothing's going to happen to me that's not meant to happen."
"People in the military now have defended my freedom," Seate said. "It's my turn now."