'Like son, like mother'

The truth be told, the inspirations for Spc. Cola Jade and her son Spc. Miami Jade were all relative, and included each other and another family member.

Cola joined the New York Army National Guard's Staten Island-based 145th Surface Maintenance Company as a wheeled vehicle mechanic in 2009 -- right after her son Miami finished training for the same career field and unit.

He was excited and proud when Cola enlisted, Miami said.

"Not everyone's parents are in the Army," he said.

Cola's father was a pilot and mechanic in the British military, and she and Miami lived in Great Britain. They vacationed in the United States in 2004, but settled in Brooklyn after Cola found a job teaching fitness and modern dance.

"We just never left," she said.

When Miami was 19, he decided to join the New York Army National Guard. Recalling that his grandfather fixed vehicles, he opted to follow in his footsteps and become a wheeled vehicle mechanic, Miami said.

Cola felt a mixture of emotions at her son's enlistment. At the time, her only images of the American Army came from films, she admitted.

"I was angry," Cola recalled. "I didn't know anything about the Army." She was also afraid for Miami's safety.

Basic training, though difficult, was a good experience, and he enjoyed Advanced Individual Training (AIT) because he learned a lot about vehicles, Miami said. He wrote to Cola every week, and she encouraged him as he was undergoing training, he added.

"I was really proud of him, that he could go through all that," Cola recalled. She also did some research and found the Army wasn't like she thought, she added.

They spoke by phone toward the end of his training and she attended his graduation at Fort Jackson, S.C., Miami said. He told her it was a good experience and that he'd made lifelong friends, he added.

"I told her how it was, and it gave her the idea to join," Miami recalled.

Cola remembered something else Miami told her.

"He said 'you're just like the drill sergeants, you should join,'" she said.

The recruiter was surprised when she approached him to enlist, because she had been angry before, and had since changed her mind, she said.

"He laughed, because he didn't believe it," she said.

Unable to enlist in a medical field due to her pending citizenship status, Cola recalled her father and consulted Miami, asking him how he felt about her becoming a wheeled vehicle mechanic like him.

"He said he didn't mind," she said.

Her drill instructors were shocked to discover that she'd followed her son into the Army, and that, as a British citizen, she'd decided to join the American Army, Cola said. She achieved the maximum score on her physical training test in AIT, she added.

Miami, in turn, attended Cola's graduation from AIT at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and mother and son continue to enjoy their military careers.

"I love it," Miami said, adding that he wants to join the regular Army as a mechanic.
Cola, who became an American citizen in December, 2010, said she enjoys the discipline and physical training of the Army.

"It teaches you so much," she said.

Though they're still the same rank, Miami believes Cola will make sergeant before him.

"We're both specialists, but I think she will," Miami said. "She was a specialist before me."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16